Los Angeles Lakers vs New Orleans Hornets: 2011 1st Round Preview

We’re just hours away from the opening tip as the Lakers host the Hornets to start their quest for a three-peat. The crack staff at LSL got together to do a breakdown of the match up.

Here’s how Chris Shellcroft sees this series going.

Analysis: There really isn’t any reason why the Lakers shouldn’t bust out the brooms in this series. The Lake Show swept the regular season series from New Orleans outscoring the Hornets 101 to 89 on average. NO has had injury issues all year long and losing David West for the remainder of the season did them no favors. Give Monty Williams credit though, the former player turned coach has done a fantastic job in his rookie campaign getting this team into the playoffs with an ever changing lineup. However, he’s got his work cut out for him going against perhaps the greatest postseason coach in the history of professional sports in Phil Jackson.

Photo by Rusty Costanza/The Times-Picayune

Size truly does matter: Emeka Okafor is the only real inside presence the Hornets boast of. However his season averages of 12 and 10 against the Lake Show pale in comparison to the 22 and 12 Pau Gasol posted on average against New Orleans. Andrew Bynum was never dominant in the games against the Hornets. Drew dropped 15 and pulled down just 5 boards per contest but his presence in the paint proved invaluable.

The X-Factors: We know that Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul will be setting the one for their respective teams but in the playoffs it’s all about getting contributions from unexpected sources. The Hornets acquired Carl Landry late in the season to replace West and in his lone appearance against the Lakers Landry did work scoring 24 points and pulling down 10 boards. Of course that didn’t factor much into the outcome as the Lakers still won by 18 in the final meeting between these two teams. For the Lakers it’s going to be important to get more from of Ron Artest. Ron Ron played some inspired defense in the four clashes with the Hornets but the Lakers are going to need more from him offensively to help compensate for the lack of production from the bench.

Chris’ prediction: New Orleans really only has one advantage in this series that being at the point guard position. Unless Paul is posting huge offensive outputs the Hornets really don’t stand much of a chance at pushing this thing beyond five games at best. I see a sweep in the future, Lakers in 4.

And here’s Jovan Buha’s prediction for the series.

Analysis: Do I really have to add anything else? I’m pretty sure Chris summed it up perfectly. Without David West, the Hornets have one of the worst frontcourts in the NBA. That doesn’t bode well against the league’s best frontcourt (L.A.’s duh!). The only possible advantage the Hornets have is Chris Paul, the only player in NBA history toaverage 20 points and 10 assists for his playoff career. Don’t forget, though, the Lakers still have Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Throw in Andrew Bynum, Ron Artest and Derek Fisher and we may have a sweep on our hands.

Consistency is key: With L.A. most likely advancing without much trouble, I’d say their key is consistency. They should handle the Hornets pretty easily, limiting the wear and tear on their bodies and resting up for a much tougher Portland or Dallas match-up. Also, if I’m the Lakers, I rest Andrew Bynum at least Games 1 and 2. Why risk him re-injuring his knee while it’s still tender? Even without him, L.A. should win in 5 tops. There’s no reward to playing him this first round.

The X-factors: My X-factor for the Hornets is Trevor Ariza. He will (most likely) be guarding Kobe Bryant, so Ariza’s performance on the defensive end may dictate how close the Hornets play L.A. Additionally, after shooting 49% from beyond the arc for the Lakers in the 2009 playoffs, Ariza’s shooting has tailed off significantly. If Ariza can find his stroke, or at least hit three’s somewhat consistently, the Hornets have a pucnher’s chance at winning a game. For L.A., it’s Derek Fisher. Because Fisher has notoriously struggled against the league’s best point guards, his defense on Chris Paul will be key. If CP3 destroys the Lakers, the Hornets are capable of winning a game or two. Look at Fish’s performance to be a great indicator of L.A.’s defensive play.

Jovan’s prediction: To be honest there isn’t much to predict. This series will be over in 4 or 5 games. If I had to pick, though, I’d say Lakers in 4. At the same time, with Bynum’s uncertainty, as well as L.A.’s tendency to play to the level of their competition, it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Hornets steal a game in New Orleans.

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