And the streak continues. Despite subpar performances from their ensemble cast, the Los Angeles Lakers rode the coattails of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol into a 102-84 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
Behind Bryant’s 30 points and Gasol’s monster stat-line of 23 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocks, the Lakers easily dismanteled what was left of an undermanned Hornets team.
Three days ago, Hornets forward and former All-Star David West tore his ACL in a victory over the Utah Jazz. Without their leading scorer and rebounder, it seemed as if the Hornets would be hard-pressed to replace the production needed to contend for a playoff spot.
Well, that wasn’t a smart assumption. People must have forgotten a man named Carl Landry, who dropped a casual line of 24 points, 10 rebounds and a block on 8-for-16 shooting (including 8-for-9 from the free-throw line) against LA’s imposing frontline.
Nevertheless, L.A. prevailed.
The advantage for L.A. ultimately was their size and length (their advantage against basically every team), which despite not showing in the box score, definitely proved the difference maker.
The 6-foot-10 Emeka Okafor, 6-foot-9 Landry and 7-foot Aaron Gray were no match for L.A.’s big men down low. Gasol obviously had his way against the undersized Hornets, but Andrew Bynum also controlled the paint in his foul-plagued stint. Lamar Odom’s numbers weren’t impressive, but he was a +14 off the pine (in terms of +/-).
Bryant had another poor shooting night (11-for-25), but was aggressive offensively, getting to the free-line eight times and creating for his teammates. Gasol, who was forced to step up due to foul trouble to Bynum and Odom, had his most complete game in over a month. Derek Fisher struggled with his shot (1-for-8), but lead the team in +/- with +26 and made his normal impact on the game.
Despite Bryant and Gasol’s offensive excellence, L.A.’s bench struggled yet again. Their bench combined for only 23 points, mainly behind the numbers of Odom and Shannon Brown (combined 16 points). Matt Barnes and Steve Blake struggled mightily, and Luke Walton and Joe Smith didn’t contribute much in their short cameos.
With that being said, the Lakers’ true offensive struggles came from beyond the arc, where they 3-for-17 (17.6%). Bryant led the charge, going 1-for-6 from downtown.
On the contrary to L.A.’s offensive struggles, was their defensive dominance. The LakeShow held Marco Belinelli to 4-for-16 shooting (9 points), Trevor Ariza to 2-for-7 shooting (4 points), and most importantly, Hornets’ superstar Chris Paul to 4-for-10 shooting (10 points and 9 assists).
Additionally, the Lakers held the Hornets to under 85 points, marking the 7th time they’ve done so during this stretch of 15 wins in 16 games. If L.A. continues to defend like this, their offense can struggle as much as it wants (not really).
The Lakers moved to 53-20 on the season, and with a Spurs’ loss moved to within 4 games of first place. Although their chances of catching the Spurs for 1st place are slim, L.A. still plays San Antonio once in L.A., and appears to have an easier schedule down the stretch.
On the other hand, the Hornets drop to 42-32, one game ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies for the 7th seed (who ironically beat the Spurs tonight).
As of right now, these two teams would be facing off in the first round of the playoffs. If tonight’s game is any indication, the series may be over before it even started.
Topics: Aaron Gray, Andrew Bynum, Carl Landry, Chris Paul, David West, Derek Fisher, Emeka Okafor, Joe Smith, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers, Luke Walton, Marco Belinelli, Matt Barnes, Pau Gasol, Shannon Brown, Steve Blake, Trevor Ariza