I didn’t think the Hornets had more than one win in them for the series. Chris Paul suprised me in his ability to take over the scoring and dominate in games 1 and 4. The Lakers surprised me by not turning IT on. At least not often enough. Kobe Bryant, despite his injured ankle, decided he’ll show his friends who to get it done in an aggressive style.
The main talking point after the game was that dunk by Kobe on Emeka Okafor. Just a bit more than his hurt/not hurt ankle. It looked like he was going to challenge me at the rim, and I decided to accept the challenge. It’s a message for us that this was important. It’s time to raise up and do what we’ve got to do. They’re not saved dunks. I don’t have much of those left.
Even Derek Fisher got the message and scored 13 points, his best game in this post season. The big key for the Lakers were their bigs. Pau Gasol (16-8), Andrew Bynum (18-10) and Lamar Odom (13-7) destroyed the Hornets on the boards – 42 to 25, with 15 offensive rebounds and 42 points in the paint. Despite Chris Paul (20-12), Trevor Ariza (22) and Belinelli (21) combining for 63 points, the rest of the guys, especially Okafor and Landry, got outplayed.
On Kobe’s ankle? On the Hornets side, not too many people were buying into it. Be it him a little faking it, over dramatizing the whole situation with the crutches in New Orleans or just being tough and playing through it.
Hornets head coach, Monty Williams – All this talk about his ankle. Did it look like his ankle was hurting? OK then. They guy getting dunked on also had something to say – That’s for show,you know Kobe is going to play no matter what, even if he has to be out there on one leg.
The teams now head back to New Orleans, and the Lakers come in booming with confidence. I still don’t think Kobe is the key to their success. He led the scorers with 19, but it was a well adjusted and balanced performance from the Lakers, with six scorers in double figures. It was the defense from the 3rd quarter and onwards, allowing 39.2% from the field after the Hornets ran wild in the first quarter. It was Gasol and Bynum finally dominating. Kobe was just there to remind them how important this game is.
And for a team like the Lakers, with two titles and three NBA finals in the last three years, they need those sparks to wake them up. For too many nights this season they wait for Kobe to electro-shock them into the game. Sometimes it doesn’t even work, as Gasol continues his apathy in losses. The Hornets are going to jump them from the start, and the Lakers can’t get phased out. They can handle Paul trying to do things alone. If he gets Landry and Okafor involved and doesn’t try to win the game from the outside, the Lakers need to worry. Despite having one of the all time greats still going strong, hurt or not, this title goes through Gasol and Bynum’s ability to dominate the paint.