NBA Playoffs 2011: Lakers Defeat Hornets 98-80, Will Beat Mavericks Next

Victoria SterlingCorrespondent IApril 29, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 28:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts during play against the New Orleans Hornets in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2011 at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Phew!  Finally.  Lakers dispatch New Orleans.  But before we look at game six, let’s not forget the crazy that was game five, or as I call it, “The Game of the Unknown Ankle.”

Holy smokes Mamba!  Talk about (re)-announcing your presence with authority!  Those were two awesome dunks.  Was his ankle really not that bad?  Or is it secretly held together MacGyver-like with duct tape and chewing gum?  We’ll never know.  The Lakers will never tell us.  Kobe will never tell us.  For now. 

Maybe in the future we’ll find out. Sometimes Kobe surprises everybody after the fact by actually explaining what he was doing.  Exhibit A is the postgame press conferences after last year’s title and subsequent stories about how bad his knee and finger really were last year. 

With those dunks, was he sending a message to his teammates?  Yes.  Was he sending a message to Emeka Okafor?  Yes.  Was he sending a message to Chris Paul?  Yes.  Was he sending a message to all the Hornets?  Yes. Was he sending a message to the Phil Jackson?  Yes.  Was he sending a message to #MichaelJordanisthebestever? Yes.  (It’s possible I made up that hashtag.  Maybe.)

But, that’s just Kobe being Kobe.  Only he can get away with refusing an MRI and X-rays (and blame it on the 405 traffic!). It either means he knew the ankle injury was more severe than he was letting on or he didn't want to find out.  Maybe a combo of both. 

Only a player of his status can get away with that.  Can you imagine if Mark Sanchez refused treatment like that?  The Jets trainers would be like, Get your @$$ on the table Nacho.

Sometimes I think even if Kobe sustained an open fracture, he’d yell for somebody to get some dirt to rub on it and find an Ace bandage and wrap it up.  I.  Am.  Playing. 

You gotta respect it.  Although it is somewhat nerve-racking to watch.

So, the Lakers prevail in game five with Kobe’s heroics and then had to return to the Hive to try to knock out game six and get some rest.

And knock out they did.

Listen, hats off to New Orleans.  They did a spectacular job.  But it takes a while (especially in the NBA) to learn how to be a champion.  I say learn because in the playoffs, every little thing matters.  When to use time outs, when to rotate in or keep players on the floor.  Managing the off court distractions.  Motivating the team and keeping them motivated after losses or tough breaks.  Dealing with injuries.  Dealing with the media.  It’s a huge learning curve for a young team.  The Hornets acquitted themselves well.  And there was no questioning their heart.

I think Laker fans need to thank New Orleans because they did the one thing that nobody….not Phil, not the media, not the fans could do.  They finally woke the Lakers up and got them playing to their potential.  And at the end of the day, the Lakers just had too much size and too much firepower. 

So now we move on to the Western semi's and the Dallas Mavericks.  Recall the last time these two met (multiple ejections/tech fouls) and some pretty heated chippiness between the two teams.  Get ready for more of the same.  Dallas is sick of the Lakers standing in their way too. 

But the Lakers can win if they can get efforts like they had in game six from everyone.  Lamar Odom had a great game.  Pau Gasol played better.  Andrew Bynum was lights out.  Derek Fisher stepped it up and kept the defensive pressure on.  The bench really played well and for once did not give up a huge lead.  Matt Barnes, especially, did what Matt Barnes is supposed to do:  get in the mix and mix it up.  And Ron Artest, the unsung hero of round one, only turned in another solid hustled-filled effort.  Ron- congratulations on your award and a great first round series.  Well done. 

And of course Kobe.  Really, what else is there to say?  I knew it was over when the cameras caught a shot of his expression after he had scored a three point basket late in the third.  Over.  I’ve seen that expression a hundred times.  It’s almost like he knows….Mamba has struck for the kill.  We’re done here.  The fourth quarter was just a formality.  And so it was.

By the way, everyone needs to lay off Pau.  Did he have a great series?  No.  But apparently Pau has been sick with an upper respiratory  infection and taking antibiotics.  According to the internet, an upper respiratory infection is also known as a terrible cold.  I don’t know about you, but when I’m sick like that, it takes all of my energy to drag myself off the couch and in to the kitchen for a glass of OJ.  Pau was playing playoff basketball and never complained once.  He’ll recover. 

And you mark my words, he will have a breakout game in this next series.  Pau is as proud a player as any Laker and he hears the criticism.  I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt based on his body of work.  Pau – get well.  I hope that the Lakers trainers have you hooked up to a chicken soup IV from now til tipoff on Monday.

Lakers - you had us all a little nervous for a while, but good job finally buckling down when you had to and getting the job done.  We’ll reconvene on Monday.