The Lakers and the Hornets are all knotted up at two games apiece. It has been one of the most exciting and interesting series in the wild and wacky Western Conference playoffs.
The Hornets need to win two more games to pull off the upset. It is a tall task against the defending champions, but it just might happen.
Chris Paul’s dominance and the Kobe Bryant’s ankle injury are just two reasons why the Hornets are going to send the Lakers home early this summer.
These are the top 10 reasons why the Lakers will be eliminated by the Hornets.
Derek Fisher has got to be the worst defending point guard in the NBA.
He is way to slow to guard Chris Paul at point guard and is easily overpowered by wing players. On the defensive side of the ball, Fisher is a liability.
In Game 1, he was constantly trailing Chris Paul and allowing him easy baskets. Paul is somebody you have to work hard against. You need to make him settle for jump shots and not let him get around you.
The Lakers need to solve the problem of defense at the guard spot. Backup point guard Steve Blake is a far superior defender, and perhaps he should see more time on the floor.
The Hornets have done an exceptional job not letting any of the Lakers breakout for big games. Kobe Bryant has gone for at least 30 points twice in this series, but his team is not having nearly as much success.
No Laker other than Kobe has scored 20 points in a game during the series. That is a serious problem.
The Lakers are at their best when someone other than Kobe can have a big game. Gasol, Bynum or Odom finally need to have a game in which that they can help Kobe carry the scoring load.
The Hornets have had more assists than the Lakers in every game except for the Game 3 Los Angeles victory.
The Hornets have Chris Paul, one of the best facilitators in the NBA, so this stat might be a little misleading. However, the Lakers don’t really have anyone who runs their offense.
Kobe is currently leading the team in assists this series with just 4.3 per game.
Too many of the Lakers possessions are turning into isolation plays for Bryant, Odom or Gasol. They need try to create open looks off the pass rather than taking on defenders by themselves.
Coming into this series, the biggest advantage the Lakers had was their size. During the regular season, the Lakers ranked third in the NBA in rebounding, while the Hornets ranked 24th.
In this series, New Orleans has only averaged four less rebounds per game than the Lakers.
Andrew Bynum is averaging a series high 10 per game, but Gasol is only averaging 6.3 per game and Lamar Odom is barely averaging five.
The Hornets on the other hand are having players rebound the ball well that normally do not. Trevor Ariza is snatching down eight boards a night and Chris Paul is averaging seven per game.
If the Lakers want to take control of these series, they need to win the battle on the glass.
Lamar Odom has always been the X-factor for the Lakers in the playoffs. When he is on his game, the Lakers are tough to beat.
Unfortunately, he has not been on his game this series.
Odom has averaged just 11.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Decent numbers coming off the bench, but not for the NBA sixth man of the year.
Last game was Odom’s worst yet. He was 1-7 from the field, scoring just six points while turning the ball over twice.
In an earlier slide I talked about how poor of a defender Derek Fisher is. Well, since Fisher has failed at guarding Chris Paul, the job has now been handed over to Kobe Bryant.
The problem isn’t Kobe’s defense. Bryant is a strong defensive player who is probably the best suited on his team to guard Paul. However, Kobe has to expend a lot of energy on the defensive end when he is guarding the point guard.
Right now, Bryant is the only consistent offensive player the Lakers have.
Not only is Bryant expected to be the best player on offense, but now he is also expected to be the best player on defense.
That is a lot to expect from one player, even if it is Kobe Bryant.
During the regular season, the Lakers were 30-11 at home. Winning a regular season game at the Staples Center is tough, but winning a playoff game there has been nearly impossible in recent years.
However, the Hornets proved in Game 1 that they can get it done. They glitz and glamour of Hollywood didn’t distract them at all as they went on to a 109-100 victory.
Last season in the Western Conference Finals, the Suns could not win at L.A. Their inability to win on the road ultimately decided the series.
This Hornets team is different though. There is nothing scarier than a team that can win on the road.
If someone were to tell you that Ron Artest would be outplaying Pau Gasol in this series, you would think they were crazy. But that has been the case so far.
Gasol is averaging a meager 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
It is not that Gasol is taking bad shots, but he just cant get anything to fall. He has shot 38.5 percent from the field thus far, 13.4 percent worse than his regular season percentage.
Kobe Bryant left the arena last game on crutches after spraining his ankle in the fourth quarter.
This injury could prove to be incredibly costly for the Lakers. Kobe is guarding Chris Paul on defense and is relied on to carry the offense.
If this injury slows Kobe down, he might not be able to stay with Paul. Likewise, if the injury hurts his ability to cut, he wont be as effective of a scorer.
Kobe will still be one of the best players on the floor, but he will not be playing to his full potential. If somebody doesn’t pick up the slack and help Kobe out, the Lakers could be in trouble.
All of the other reasons given have absolutely nothing on this one. Chris Paul has been the best player in the NBA during the playoffs.
In my opinion, he is the best point guard in the league. He inches out Rose because Paul gets the job done with less talent around him.
He has been dominant in all aspects of the game this series. He is currently averaging 25.5 points, 11.5 assists, seven rebounds and two steals per game.
If the Lakers want to win this series, they need to find a way to slow down Chris Paul.