Western Conference first-round preview: Lakers vs. Hornets
Kobe Bryant once called the Lakers schizophrenic, and once again, it's hard to get a read on their true personality. Are they the two-time champions who won 17 of 18 games out of the All-Star break and can exploit a size advantage against anyone they face? Or are they the complacent and short-handed unit that lost the top seed in the Western Conference, dropped five games in a row this month and watched Andrew Bynum hobble off Tuesday with a bruised knee? The Lakers (57-25) should be able to get their bearings in the first round against the Hornets (46-36), who lost all four meetings with the Lakers this season, and won't have David West because of his torn ACL. Like the Lakers, the Hornets are limping into the playoffs, and will need a dominant series from Chris Paul to compete.
As poorly as the Lakers have played this month, they came away with the best draw they could have hoped for. The Hornets offer a reprieve, a chance for the Lakers to regain momentum as they aim for a third straight championship. Paul will present many challenges, but without West, the Hornets do not have enough scoring punch. Convincing the Hornets that they can win, after losing four in a row to the Lakers and three in a row to finish the season, will be a chore for first-year coach Monty Williams.