In the opening minute of the opening game against the Los Angeles Lakers, New Orleans Hornets power forward Carl Landry took an outlet pass from point guard Chris Paul, sprinted up the wing into the paint, and threw down a jam that shook the Staples Center floor.
It sent a message, clear and simple: the Hornets would not be going down without a fight.
The two-time defending champion Lakers should have dispatched their first-round opponents like a closer with a ten-run lead in the ninth inning. But that wasn’t the case, as New Orleans, without leading scorer David West, gave the Lakers a six-game dogfight that exposed LA's vulnerabilities.
While the Lakers were never really in trouble in games they won, they never really deviated from a nip-and-tuck pace until the final minutes. Each Lakers victory required different strategies and contributors; a complex web of tactics as diverse as it was entertaining.
So which is the bigger story, Los Angeles’s struggles or New Orleans’s grit? Each has its own merits and intricacies, but sadly that question can’t be answered until Los Angeles’ playoff run ends.
Of undeniable certainty, however, is that the Bees made a statement; that they embraced the monumental task of drawing a bigger, stronger, and more experienced team in the first round under a rookie head coach.
This writer suggested that a first-round matchup with the Lakers would be a blowout sweep that would expedite the process of relocating the franchise. But when the Hornets rose, their fans rose behind them, and for once, the team and its fan-base appeared to do justice to the motto of “passion, purpose, pride.”
Here’s a look at how the Hornets successfully lobbied for the franchise’s geographical entrenchment in this exciting first-round series.