Photo by AP/Mark J. Terrill

Lakers/Hornets Game 2 Preview

Heading into Game 2, the Lakers have a lot to be disappointed about. The Lakers were supposed to win this series in an easy four or five games. With the way they played in Game 1, they’ll be lucky to win it in six.

But of course we as Laker fans know better. We know L.A. is the better team. We know the Hornets have no chance without David West.

Therefore, it’s not a matter of if L.A. wins the series but when.

Hornets center Aaron Gray — yes the one who put up a 12-10 on the Lakers’ All-Star front-court — sprained his ankle in Game 1 and will be listed as day-to-day for Game 2. If he is out for any extended period of time, the Hornets will literally get demolished down low.

For the Lakers to even out the series and take back their home-court advantage, they will need to make a lot of changes. Stopping Chris Paul, giving the ball to their big men and running the offense are atop that list.

With that said, here are the keys to an L.A. victory in Game 2:

Photo by AP/Mark J. Terrill

1. Contain Chris Paul

Although this is easier said than done, this is the biggest key for L.A. If they want the night to be much easier for themselves, they will take out Paul early (not literally, but figuratively). The Lakers’ big men need to hedge harder on the pick-and-roll, opting to trap CP3 and force the ball out of his hands.

But forcing the ball into anyone else’s hands will be much better than having Paul toy with the Lakers’ defense. This is no easy task, though, and will take a full team effort. Chris Paul has notoriously killed the Lakers throughout the years, so his success in Game 1 comes as no surprise.

L.A.’s two biggest weaknesses on the defensive end are fast point guards and an expertly executed version of the pick-and-roll (neither Derek Fisher, Steve Blake or Trey Johnson are quick enough to guard Paul and Paul’s greatest offensive strength is his ability to create for himself and others in the pick-and-roll).

For L.A. to be successful they must up their aggression on their defensive attack, react quicker to pick-and-rolls and angle Paul off from the basket.

2. Go Inside to the Big Men

Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom combined for 22 shot attempts! That’s less than 30 percent of L.A.’s total shot attempts, meaning there was way too many shots being jacked up from the guards and wings.

Whenever Fisher and Ron Artest take more shots than Bynum and  Odom, you have a major problem.

Photo by AP/Mark J. Terrill

Each big man should be taking a minimum of ten shots  per game. With Pau and Drew, that total may even need to rise upwards to 15.

However, L.A.’s big men need to make sure they impact the game, regardless of if they have the ball or not.

We all know Kobe Bryant called out Pau after Game 1. We also know Andrew Bynum is playing on a gimpy knee (again). Finally, Lamar Odom is Lamar Odom. He disappears sometimes.

With that said, the Lakers can’t afford to have them all struggling. That’s exactly what happened against the Hornets in Game 1. Yes Bynum had 13 points and 9 boards, but he was a -15 for the game while on the court, the greatest negative of any Laker.

Obviously that statistic is skewed and partial to who the player is on the court with, but Bynum really did not influence the game as much as he should have.

Should I even think about Gasol and Odom’s Game 1 statlines? No, I don’t want to puke right now.

Without Aaron Gray (presumably), the Hornets will boast a front-court of Emeka Okafor (6’9), Carl Landry (6’7), Jason Smith (6’10) and D.J. Mbenga (7’0).

Smith and Mbenga are questionable NBA players at best. The fact that they are playing shows how shallow the Hornets’ big men depth is.

Add in Okafor and Landry, two quality yet undersized starting big men and you see why L.A. should be easily dominating the much smaller Hornets. Whoever is guarded by the 6’7 Landry should have a field day (I’m looking at you Pau).

Expect big things offensively from Pau, a dominant defense effort from Drew and a game-chaning performance from Lamar.

3. Run the Triangle Offense

This is somewhat similar to going inside to the big men, but the fact is the Lakers went away from the triangle too frequently in Game 1.

They had 13 turnovers, which actually isn’t too high of a number. The problem is that eight of those turnovers were a result of a Hornets’ steal.

The Lakers need to take care of the ball better, make smart passes and decisions and not telegraph their passes.

Part of the problem could be that Steve Blake missed Game 1, but I can’t put the entire blame on the shoulder’s of L.A.’s backup point guard.

Too many times, certain people went away from the Triangle into “hero” mode (hmm Kobe?).

If the Lakers can get back to moving the ball, going inside and out and making the correct cuts and passes, the Lakers should be able to easily run the Hornets off the court.

Final prediction:

Going into Game 2 the Lakers will be motivated and ready. They didn’t expect Chris Paul to revert to his 2008 MVP-esque form. They didn’t know Aaron Gray could get a double-double (neither did I). They weren’t ready for Jarret Jack and Willie Green‘s onslaught attack of midrange jumpers.

They will be ready this time.

Therefore, I expect a big game from L.A. There will be no letting up Wednesday night. Lamar Odom just won Sixth Man of the Year. The LakeShow is ready and looking for blood. Being embarrassed on their home-court in the playoffs to an inferior team was not on L.A.’s to-do list this year and it won’t happen again.

Lakers 112, Hornets 94

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