In Depth Playoff Preview: New Orleans Hornets Vs. Los Angeles Lakers

In an uphill battle Chris Paul will have to play the series of his life in order to beat Kobe Bryant and his quest to three-peat

As Kobe Bryant hoisted up a 25 foot three pointer against the Sacramento Kings with 6 seconds left it almost seemed like it was meant to be, the Hornets versus the Lakers in the 2011 NBA Playoffs. I’m not quite sure how optimistic a Hornets fan can be for this series, just about every living human being has New Orleans either getting swept or losing in 5. If you’re a Lakers fan reading this you can enjoy yourselves, turn on the television knowing in all likelihood you’ll be watching an LA victory. I guess that the basketball gods, love the city of Los Angeles and hate the great cities of New Orleans. It’s a shame really, but this is the NBA.

David West’s injury was devastating. If you don’t know and are still living under a rock he is out for the season (and most likely most of the next) with an ACL tear. This has hurt the Hornets front-court which was never a strength to begin with.

In today’s article we’ll discuss the following:

  • Positional Matchups
  • Historical Matchups
  • X-Factor’s
  • Series Prediction

Positional Match-Ups

vs.

The point guard position has becoming more important in recent years with the emergence of probably the most talented group of 1-guards ever to play the game at the same time. Chris Paul is one of those guards and Derek Fisher is not. But, what Fisher lacks in talent and youth, he more than makes up for in veteran leadership, shooting ability and referee manipulation. Theoretically speaking, Paul should run rings around Fisher, but it may not be as simple as that. CP is having his worst statistical season since his rookie year. He is still amazingly efficient, but what’s efficiency if you are not productive.

Advantage: Chris Paul

vs.

He goes by many names, but Kobe Bryant is one of the most decorated NBA superstars we have in the league today. The fact he’s still producing at the level he normally does is outstanding. While some criticize his shot selection it is my view that you want him taking those shots. You want Bryant to get 25 shots a night, you want him being a scorer. Some nights (most nights) they’ll go in, other times they wont. It’s most likely that Trevor Ariza is going to be guarding Bryant, not Belinelli but if we are looking at the head-to-head it’s not doubt that the Black Mamba has to large advantage over the Italian.

Advantage: Kobe Bryant

vs.

To me this is quite an amusing matchup. There is Ron Artest, the player the Lakers wanted, and there is Trevor Ariza, the one they didn’t want. Ariza would be in his right to hold a grudge towards the Lakers organization (not its fans who love him). Artest does his job for L.A. in the same way that Trevor did. The thing that seperates them is that Artest is a better shooter and Ariza is more athletic. Both play their roles which is why not much seperates them.

Advantage: Even

vs.

There you have Pau Gasol the much heralded bigman from Spain and then you have Carl Landry the workman’s workman, a true blue collar guy. Despite the contrast in personality and on-court persona, one has more size, more talent and more experience than the other. If Carl Landry ever reads this, he should use it as motivation to prove everyone wrong. He should embrace his style of play and take it to Gasol. However in my view there’s no substitute for a skilled bigman like Gasol who can do pretty much everything you can ask from a big man.

Advantage: Pau Gasol

vs.

Both of these players are very solid pillars for their respective teams. Andrew Bynum has the potential, while Emeka Okafor offers the stability. Bynum produces a bit more than Okafor, but I do think that the center for New Orleans can hold his own against the other. Some will make a big deal about Bynum’s injury (there are rumors he may sit out game one, but I don’t buy it). I think though over the series that Bynum’s size will get the best of Okafor, but not by much.

Advantage: Slight to Andrew Bynum

Bench: vs.

The thing that makes the Lakers so much more dangerous than any other team is their depth. Lamar Odom, the likely sixth man of the year, leads the way for Los Angeles having his most productive season as a pro. Odom has killed the Hornets every time they have met, with his versatility no match for anyone on the Hornets roster. Others that feature on the LA bench are Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Shannon Brown. Those are all talented players, even if they’ve been extremely inconsistent of late. But if you want to talk about inconsistency, look no further than the New Orleans Hornets. While Jarrett Jack has been a stud of late, it’s been everyone else that has people so black and white. Willie Green acts as a scoring two-guard, something much needed for the bench unit. But he doesn’t offer anything else of value. Quincy Pondexter plays great…in scrub minutes, but just can’t handle the value minutes required as a role player. Then you have the weakest part of the team, the Hornets front-court bench. Aaron Gray has shown he can be a capable rebounder in the NBA, but struggles with getting called for any kind of foul. Jason Smith can shoot jumpshots, but is a mediocre rebounder. And there you have DJ Mbenga, you know what I mean Lakers fans…

Advantage: (Closer than you think but…) Lakers

Historical Match-Up

  • Season Series: Lakers won 4-0
  • Overall Series: Lakers winning 41-17

The Lakers have the advantage if we put on our historical caps. We find that LA has only lost to New Orleans 4 times in the last 4 seasons.

X-Factor — Chris Paul

I was thinking of which role player, for both sides, would have the most impact on this series. Then I stopped and really discovered who controlled the outcome (or severity of it), it was Chris Paul. If New Orleans is to take a game, or maybe even two, it’ll depend on their leader and point guard CP3. He’s been waiting for the playoffs ever since that Denver game, vowing to return to the pinacle of his career. He’s seen guards Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Russel Westbrook all receive praise and acclaim as everyone forgot about him. If Paul is to ever capture his magic he has to do it against the biggest team in the league. He has the potential to rattle this series some, but to me he’s the difference between a series sweep and a 4-2 loss.

Series Prediction

I was spot on with my season prediction for the Hornets, I said they’ll likely end up in the 7th or 8th seed (and then get knocked out). It proves my prophecy is going to come true with this matchup with the Lakers. I love Chris Paul, I love Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor, the whole team, but I don’t think they match up well with them AT ALL. If they had David West, maybe we’d give them a run for their money, but again I doubt it. What I like about the playoffs is if your team is in them you get excited just a little bit more than usual because despite reality you still feel like there’s the odd, remote chance of a series upset. I like the time before Game 1 in round one, it’s just a nice period of anticpation where you can verhemently say that anything can happen. Until Game 1′s slaughter commences I’ll continue to be a little giddy, foolish and everything else.

The Lakers are ridiculous. They have their goal to three-peat and see New Orleans as nothing more than a bug that gets in their path towards glory. I think this could, maybe in some way, be an oversight, but we know that Phil Jackson takes nothing lightly (just like Kobe) and they’ll be prepared.

So to the Lakers fans, worst of luck and best of luck to us because God knows we need it.

Prediction: Lakers in 4.

Topics: Andrew Bynum, Carl Landry, Chris Paul, Derek Fisher, Emeka Okafor, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers, Marco Belinelli, New Orleans Hornets, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, Trevor Ariza

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