I apologize in advance for my lack of depth in this post, but it's midterm season and I'm getting ready to take them head on. I just wanted to make sure I got my main thoughts on Game 5 down on paper, because in my mind this is a crucial game.
I'm scared, for a lack of a better word, for Game 5 against the Hornets because the Lakers can't blame the 2-2 series score on lack of effort. They've generally been playing hard, but they just can't stop Chris Paul. Game 1 was tipped in New Orleans' favor due to the bench's ridiculous shooting and Game 4 because of Paul's remarkable effort.
Game 5 needs to be the game where the Lakers put their foot down. Pau Gasol needs to be aggressive, take the ball to the hoop and stop shooting 15- to 18-footers. Lamar Odom needs to attack the basket, hit the cutters and hit the boards hard. Andrew Bynum needs to play intense defense, alter any shot taken within five feet of the hoop and grab every rebound he can.
The Lakers as a team need to commit to slowing Chris Paul down. When he drives, bump him, hit him; when he goes to the hoop, let nothing be easy. I'm not in any way saying that the Lakers should hurt him—that's the last thing I want to see—but they need to toughen up. Take a note from the Celtics that beat them in 2008, or from the Pistons that would try to stop Michael Jordan.
Unfortunately, if the Lakers do proceed to the next round, other than the Mavericks, their potential playoff matchups (Thunder, Bulls, Celtics) all have quick point guards. This has been proven yet again in this playoff series to be the Lakers' Achilles heel. Even the Mavericks have J.J. Barea off the bench who could do a lot of damage against LA.
There is not a shred of me that thinks the Hornets are a better team than the Lakers, but they are showing that talent isn't even close to being the be-all, end-all factor in the playoffs. Determination, teamwork and heart are huge, and so far the Lakers have showed little.
Pau Gasol has been equally disappointing throughout the series, but after scoring eight points in each of the first two games, he has scored 16 and 17 respectively in the last two. Something he needs to do is attack the glass though, as he's only had one game with more than six rebounds.
Lamar Odom is the X-factor once again, but what else is new? Ever since the Lakers began their Finals run in 2008, LO has been the guy behind the scenes who has to show up in order for the Lakers to be competitive. When he plays well, it's just too easy for LA.
In the Lakers' two losses, Odom has averaged eight points, 2.5 rebounds, and one assist. In Laker wins, he has averaged 14.5 points, eight rebounds and two assists. We see he is more aggressive with his rebounding and scoring, with about six more in each category, when the Lakers win.
Something I noticed in the Lakers' Game 2 victory was the impact that Andrew Bynum had. He has had four fouls in three of the games, and he fouled out in the fourth. He needs to stay out of foul trouble to really affect the game, and though he fouled out in Game 2, he wasn't in foul trouble early. This is something I'm going to be watching early on, and if he picks up an early foul or two, it won't be an easy game for LA.
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