Published: April 17, 2011
The Hornets just shattered a whole host of sweep predictions, winning 109-100 (Box Score) on the defending champion Lakers home court. Â The Hornets led for almost every minute of the game, played record-tying mistake free offensive basketball, and weathered a storm of free throws in the Lakers favor to start the game.
As always, it was a tremendous team defensive effort that made the win possible as the Hornets combined to limit Bynum with foul trouble and Gasol in general.Â That, in turn, made Bryant take most of the shots through the second half, and history has shown that the Lakers are vulnerable when Bryant is being forced to carry most of the load himself.
Then, of course, there was the Eater of Souls.
17 points in the fourth quarter.Â 33 overall.Â 11-18 shooting, 14 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, and a bare pair of turnovers.Â He got to the hoop at will, he took guys off the dribble and drilled shots in their face.Â He set his feet and knocked down his threes.Â He had a brilliant steal on Bryant that he simply plucked from his hands.Â He pushed on fast breaks.Â He manufactured two for ones.Â He handled tough, physical defense with tough, physical offense of his own.Â He was brilliant in every sense of the word.
In the first half he controlled the game, dishing for 10 of his dimes, while taking the open shots that were there.Â To close the game, he was simply un-guardable, with a jumper that was automatic from all ranges.Â Incredible.
Nothing hurt more than seeing him have to be helped off the court at the end of that game, because Gray was a monster.Â Â With Okafor drawing fouls every time he shrugged his shoulders, Gray came in and made Bynum struggle to get position in the paint.Â While it resulted in a lone rebound for the big man, his ability to tie up huge chunks of space in the paint allowed the Hornets team as a whole to control the defensive glass, and limit a huge Laker advantage.Â His offense on the other hand was excellent as he floated to the empty spaces and Paul found him for easy look after easy look.Â Come back strong, Gray.
- The bench was vital tonight, but it wasn’t just their hot shooting.Â Their assault on the paint in the fourth quarter as Willie, Jack and Gray rumbled towards the hoop put the Hornets in the bonus with more than eight minutes to go.Â The result was that a game that formerly had the Lakers winning the free throw game 28 to 12 ended 33 to 33.
- Free throws.Â See that, McNamara?Â The Hornets can get the easy, necessary free throws!
- Willie Green got his minutes against the Lakers bench, which struggled mightily tonight.Â His slashing game was important, but Monty made the right call in putting in Ariza to track Bryant.Â Ariza’s defense was brilliant down the stretch.
- Of course, Ariza’s offense was as cringe-worthy as usual, as it was his offensive forays that let the Lakers get back into in the third.Â Still, his defense and contributions on the boards made him a net-gain in my book.
- The Hornets were determined to slow Gasol.Â While Gasol was playing, the Hornets kept cycling Okafor and even Mbenga on him to make sure a tough defender was bodying him at all time.Â They opened the game with Landry on Bynum to make that possible.Â A risky plan by Monty, but the Hornets need to take some risks to pull this series out.Â Good on ya, rook.
- Jack, for all this being his first playoff game, was playing pretty free and easy.Â When he took that three in the fourth that stuck on the rim, he was actually grinning.Â Pressure wasn’t getting to him.Â Oh, and 15 and 5 for the back-up point, including two brilliant veteran plays to draw free throws.Â Anyone want to murder him this time?
- Fisher is a hard-nosed son of a bitch.
- In the third, I was getting really worried as the Laker defensive pressure ramped up and they started getting to the line.Â But then the Hornets answered that run like they answered all the others.Â Phew.
For those of you who went to the Watch party, I hear it was absolutely magnificent.Â Thanks for coming out and sharing the good time!Â Joe is going to be holding another watch party at the same place for the Wednesday game too.Â Spread the word and bring your friends!
Oh – and I just recapped a Sunday win.Â That hasn’t happened all year.Â Must have been my abandonment of numbers in favor of my emotion-inspiring video.Â Â Go watch it again.
We can counter, and we still got Paul.Â All the Paul you can handle.