Marching Forward – and some Lakers Notes

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Published: February 20, 2009

Last year, the Hornets exploded in January behind an easy schedule, running off a 12-2 record for the month.  It propelled West into the All-Star game, Paul into the MVP discussion, and the Hornets to the 2nd seed.

This season January and February were not easy, and the difficulty of the schedule was compounded by injuries.  However, the end of February, all of March, and the first couple games of April provide the Hornets with a springboard back to respectability.  Once they weather the back to back this weekend against the Lakers and Jazz, they get 21 games in 42 nights – against mostly patsies.  I also expect that Tyson will come back from his ankle injury right around the start of March, so hopefully that will provide a further spark.

That stretch of 21 games includes only 7 games against teams with records above .500 – and two of those teams are currently only 1 game above .500: Detroit and Philadelphia.  The other five games are against Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Denver and San Antonio – not a game against the big 4 in sight.  11 of the games are on the road, but there is only one extended road trip – a stretch of four mid-march.  There are also only 3 back to back games mixed in.

To be frank, I’m salivating over that stretch.  It’s the perfect time to build up some confidence and steam and solidify their position in the West.

On to the Lakers game:

The Hornets have played the Lakers three times already this season, and the Lakers took the first two meetings handily, hitting the Hornets in the mouth in the first quarter and never relinquishing their lead.  In the last game, David West went nova, unleashing forty on the Lakers while Paul carved them up for 35 and 15.  They needed those big games too, as Kobe went psycho in the third, drilling six three pointers, no matter how contested.  The Hornets can win this game too, as long as two things happen:

  • Make Pau Gasol’s life hard in the post and don’t let him get his easy hooks
  • Force Kobe to have to be the go to guy and score a ton.

That last bullet point may seem counter-intuitive, but when Kobe scores a lot, his team has its worst results:

Bryant Points W-L Record
10-25 pts 21-0
26-35 pts 18-6
36+ pts 5-4

The Lakers have proven repeatedly that they can’t stop Paul, which isn’t surprising considering the difference in footspeed between Paul and Derek Fisher.  On the other hand, the Lakers have proven in the past that when Lamar Odom is available, they can take David West out of the game.  Odom will be available and starting, since Bynum is out, and it’ll be big to see how West handles that.  If he can’t get it going, Peja is going to have to figure out how to shake free of Trevor Ariza and punish them, or the Hornets may have trouble keeping pace, because Butler is going to have his hands full merely tracking Kobe – we can’t depend on him for much offense.

Enjoy the game, and let’s hope the Big Man Platoon are able to stop Gasol the way they stopped Dwight Howard the other night.

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