Fast Breaks: Lakers vs. Hornets, Game 3
The Lakers gained control of their first-round matchup with a 100-86 road win at New Orleans to take a 2-1 series lead in a game that looked reminiscent of L.A.'s 2010 playoff run. The length and skill of the Lakers' big men were just too much to handle in the paint and on the backboards, while Kobe Bryant supplied scoring and a red-hot shooting touch from deep.
• The Lakers were extremely efficient offensively, scoring 100 points in a slow-paced game against one of the better defenses in the league. In the first half, multiple Lakers attacked the basket effectively in a variety of ways: drives, post-ups, putbacks and give-and-go plays in which passes in to big men were followed by hard cuts to the basket from the wings. Return handoff passes resulted in first-half dunks for Bryant, Ron Artest and Shannon Brown, plus other scores. In the second half, L.A. caught fire from downtown, making 6-of-9 three-pointers in the half, with Kobe sinking three treys in the third quarter.
• For the season, the Lakers were fifth in the league in offensive rebounding percentage while the Hornets were second in defensive percentage. On this night, the Lakers owned the battle of the boards, with 14 offensive rebounds (against 27 defensive boards by the Hornets) which they converted to 17 second-chance points. Andrew Bynum was a beast in the first half with 14 points and nine rebounds, while there was finally a Pau Gasol sighting in the second half. After scoring just 20 points in the first 10 quarters of the series, Gasol erupted for 13 in the second half. Gasol keyed a critical 10-1 fourth-quarter run with a three-pointer, of all things. He scored seven points and assisted on a trifecta to account for all the points as L.A. stretched its lead from five points to 14.
• In covering the pick-and-roll against Chris Paul, L.A.'s big men laid back in the first half and Paul buried shots from the elbows at will, scoring 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting. But in the second half, the Laker bigs played much more aggressively, taking the ball out of Paul's hands. Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry did step up, efficiently scoring a combined 28 second-half points after just 10 in the first, but the Hornets got little help from anywhere else.
• The question one asks so often when watching this Hornets team, with David West lost to injury, is how are they going to score? Paul was aggressive, but only in spurts. He really needs to be looking to actively create offense on almost every possession (as in Game 1) for this team to have a chance. In Game 3, the shots weren't falling (just 2-of-13 on threes), the bench brought nothing (nine points), and too many possessions were initiated by players other than CP3 -- the Hornets invariably looked like they had no chance to score on those offensive trips
• New Orleans played at the second-slowest pace in the league this season, but they might be better-served trying to speed up the tempo in this series. According to Synergy Sports Technology, New Orleans ranked fifth in the league with 1.20 points per possession on transition plays. The Hornets actually look somewhat threatening when they get out and run, as Trevor Ariza can finish, and Paul is of course an expert decision-maker and can finish in his own right. In particular, it seems like a more up-tempo game might be advantageous against the old Laker legs. They have no chance of consistently beating L.A. in a half-court game.