Game Preview; Lakers vs Hornets

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Published: January 9, 2008

Matchup: Lakers(22-11) @ Hornets(23-11)
Offensive Efficiency: Lakers 107.3(7th), Hornets 105(11th)
Defensive Efficiency: Lakers 101.3(7th), Hornets 99.9(4th)
Relevant Blogger: Forum Blue and Gold

The Lakers will be looking for revenge tonight against the Hornets, who set some personal and team records against them earlier in the year – Peja went 10-13 from 3-point range and Chris Paul racked up 21 assists.  I'm betting Stojakovic isn't likely to be as open this time around.

Both of these two teams have fared well this year, improving greatly from last season, despite neither team making many moves in the off season.  As noted in this earlier post,  the Hornets had the 2nd greatest improvement from last year, while the Lakers improved the 5th most. 

In the end, these teams are surprising similar.  Both have good front lines(Bynum & Odom vs. Chandler & West), and both have star guards at the top of their positions.  Each team also made their leap in the standings based almost entirely on defensive prowess – the Lakers have improved their defensive efficiency by 8 points, while the Hornets defense has improved by 7 points.  Freaky.

This should be a good one, and it kicks off at 7:00 PM Central.

Positional Analysis
PG: Chris Paul vs. Derek Fisher
Advantage: Hornets
Quick point guards usually fare well against teams running the triangle offense, since that offense calls for a big guard who can hit long range shots and bring the ball up.  General athleticism is nice, but not required.  Fisher isn't big, but is a wily defender, and can hit the long range bomb with consistency.  But he isn't that athletic, and though he'll probably draw a charge at some point tonight, he's not going to be able to stay in front of Paul.

SG: Morris Peterson vs. Kobe Bryant
Advantage: Lakers
Morris needs to try and force Bryant into help on the defensive end, stick his corner threes, and hope Bryant isn't too keen on getting to the basket.  Even if the plan works, Bryant is hard to slow, and with Bynum finally being a threat, we might have trouble jamming him with West and/or Chandler like we did last game.  Bryant will get his.

SF: Peja Stojakovic vs. Luke Walton
Advantage: Hornets
This is a contrast in styles.  Luke is one of those players who does a lot of things well, but excels at nothing.  Peja does one thing great, but nothing else particularly well.  Both are designated spot up shooters, though Walton also initiates the triangle offense a lot while Peja is surprisingly effective on a mid-range isolation on the wing.  They do have one similarity – neither are particularly good at defense.  Still, I'd rather have Peja spreading the floor and doing what he does. 

PF: "Fluffy" vs. Lamar Odom
Advantage: Hornets
David West has been brutal down low these past few weeks, and I expect him to continue his effective post game.  He's got range, but that's almost secondary now.  Odom is a bit passive on the offensive end, but he can be effective, and is also an accomplished facilitator.  Still, I'd rather have West and his new focus on a post game than Odom's more perimeter-oriented skillset.  Defensively, West has also made great strides this year – and Odom has always been good when he's got his mind in the game – will it be?

C: Tyson Chandler vs. Andrew Bynum
Advantage: Hornets
Yes, yes, I know.  There have been tons of articles written about Bynum being the best upcoming big man ever anywhere anytime over the last month.  A lot of that is a function of playing in LA, though.  He is playing well, averaging 12.8 points and 10 rebounds a game in fairly efficient style, but an all-star he ain't.  Chandler, however, is a high-motor pogo-stick rebounder, his knee isn't bothering him anymore, and he compliments David West's game perfectly.  Together, West and Chandler are a nasty defensive pair down low.  I'd rather have Chandler, despite Bynum's more advanced offensive moves.

Bench
Advantage: Lakers
No surprise here.  I don't think any of the Hornets bench would get off the pine if they played for the Lakers.  Jordan Farmar is a great change of pace from Fisher, Ariza is athletic and showing a jumpshot this year, Chris Mihm, Ronny Turiaf, and Kwame Brown are all solid backup bigs, and Radmonovic and Vujacic can shoot well enough to keep the defense honest.  It's quite a mob.  The Hornets have, well, nothing I want to mention.  Ouch.

Enjoy the game!

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