Key Reserves: G Willie Green, C Aaron Gray, G Jarrett Jack, F/C Jason Smith
Injuries: David West
It’s closing time in New Orleans and the expected time of return for the Hornets is next season. Don’t expect the pesky Hornets to go down easy. The Lakers will need to be in championship form. Champions know how to close and we’ll see if these Lakers are ready tonight.
Keys to Lakers Victory:
Pick and Roll Defense: Atrocious 1st quarter for the Lakers defense. The Hornets went 13 of 16 en route to 32 points and the Lakers defense has never looked so poor. The Lakers’ wing defenders had trouble fighting over screens and sticking to their man. This lead to many wide open looks and mismatches in advantage of the Hornets. Now that we revisited that disaster let’s strike it from our memory and hope it never happens again this post season. Luckily, the Lakers picked up the intensity from the second quarter on. If they’re going to close out the series tonight, they’ll need to do work on the defensive end. There is just no way around it. Poor defense = guaranteed loss.
Dominate the Paint: The Lakers’ bigs dominated the paint in game 5. A few poignant stats: the Lakers outscored the Hornets 42-30 and had a 42-25 rebounding advantage. Gasol, Bynum, and Odom are significantly longer and taller than their New Orleans counterparts so this should come as no surprise. If the Lakers’ frontline can assert themselves around the rim then the results will follow.
Spark off the Bench: Brown, Blake, and Barnes need to continue to play well in order for the Lakers to win tonight. The Killer Bee trio outplayed their Hornets counterparts in game 5. Brown’s scoring ability is a huge asset to the Lakers’ bench. Brown can really help the offense by using his speed to score in transition. He also rediscovered his shooting in game 5 – knocking down two big treys in the second quarter. The bottom line is that the Lakers will need a spark off the bench both offensively and defensively in tonight’s close-out game. I’ll reiterate my belief that if they can hold the Hornet’s bench unit to under 15 points then the Lakers will win. Quick stat check: In the Lakers’ wins the Hornet’s bench was held to 14, 9, and 13 points. In the losses they allowed the Hornet’s bench to score 18 & 39 points.
Model Player: Congrats to Ron Ron for winning the NBA citizenship award. He’s had a remarkable turnaround since 2004. In addition to his contributions off the court, Ron has been one of the most consistent players for the Lakers this post season. He’s chipped in 13.5 points on 52.1% shooting which is well above his season averages. He’s also taking better care of the ball cutting turnovers in half from 2 to 1.
Kobe Bryant #8: We saw glimpses of a younger afro-haired-number 8-wearing Kobe Bryant when he took to the sky and threw down a monster jam. His highlight worthy dunk in the second quarter was perhaps THE turning point of this series. He sent a message to the Hornets that even an injured Mamba is still dangerous. As good as CP3 has been, let’s not forget that the Lakers have a future Hall of Famer at the helm. There is no doubt that Kobe will be instrumental in closing out the Hornets.
Lakers’ Injuries: Devin Ebanks (should be available by 2nd round of playoffs)