The Lakers Edged the Hornets

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Published: February 21, 2009

That was a damn fine game.  Sure, the Hornets had two great chances to win it in regulation, but I don’t care much about that.  The guys are showing heart and proving that they are the team everybody thought they were at the start of the season.  Can’t ask for anything more than that.

Observations:
  • The Phoenix was in full flight tonight and torching everything in sight.  Rasual Butler was doing everything out there, cutting, rebounding, and knocking down big threes at every opportunity.  He was vital to the Hornets run in the fourth, and I just can’t say enough about him.  31 points on 20 shots.  A big block of Kobe in overtime to preserve the Hornet’s hopes.  Some beautiful drives and finishes at the rim, including a gorgeous double pump to get past Gasol’s block attempt.
  • The last two weeks, the Hornets have completely modified the way they use David West.  Against the Lakers he had one and only one standard post from the low block.  The rest of the game, he caught the wing at the elbow extended or right above the free throw line and proceeded to make his move from there.  It’s a great adaptation because putting him in that triple-threat position allows him to face up and drive – or take a shot from his sweet spot.  There are sometimes still some problems with it, however.  The guys aren’t quite used to it yet, and frequently don’t space the floor enough, so he’s easily doubled and his dribble can be attacked.  Tonight he lost it four times.  I’m convinced he’ll clean that up though.  West usually figures things out.
  • West was also going hard after rebounds this game and ended with 16.  All the guys were – even Ely dug out a tough one, and Hilton had ripped down 6 before leaving the game with back spasms.  Posey contributed a solid 10. In a strage way, I think the trading of Tyson Chandler may have woken the big guys up finally to the fact that they weren’t crashing the boards the way they needed to.  Great effort, though they did lose the rebound battle by 4.

  • Chris Paul finished with 21 points on 16 shots, 16 assists, 5 rebounds, four steals and a trio of turnovers.  He also fouled out for the first time this year.  He was a surgeon in the fourth, generating open shots during the big run to tie the game up.  Yeah, he had a mistake and missed the game winning shot, but I can live with that.
  • The defense all around was pretty good.  We pretty much had the Lakers taking the shots we wanted them to take, and on only a handful of plays were there mistakes.  It was good to see.
  • Peja simply killed the Hornets in the first half.  The first five shots he had were wide open.  Completely wide open.  Defensively he made Luke Walton look like Luke Skywalker.  Bryon did the right thing and pulled him in the second half and found another hot shooter in Posey to pair with Rasual – we need those shots to sink.  It’s vital.
  • Speaking of Posey, he was on tonight and in full hustle mode.  He drilled big threes, went hard after rebounds, and guarded Kobe Bryant in the fourth and made his life hard.  Kobe settled into the post in the overtime and managed to nail a pair of shots, but by no means were they easy.  That three he missed at the end of overtime he usually makes, I had no problem with him taking it.
  • The bench is definitely starting to gel now that it’s more stable.  Daniels and Brown have been fairly effective penetrating and had pretty big contributions tonight.  The bench started the run in the second quarter that got us back into it, and it was actually the starters that let it slip a little again.  It’s good to see.

Hopefully the extended minutes Paul and West played won’t keep them from fighting the Jazz tomorrow night.  It’s freakish how the Hornets got a Lakers-Jazz back to back twice this year.

Oh – one thing that sucks – that chain of 12 overtime games the Hornets won?  Finally broken.  Still, it was a league record.  Time to start a new one.

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