When the Hornets and Lakers began this series, I’m pretty sure that game 3 is a textbook example of what most people expected to happen every game. New Orleans got absolutely zero production out of their 2-guards, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom caused HUGE mis-matches inside, and the Lakers exploited those mismatches to cruise to a victory in which the Hornets couldn’t get closer than 4 points at any point after the 7-minute mark in the first quarter. Even more disheartening is the fact that all of New Orleans’ other starters besides Belinelli actually had very solid games on the offensive end, but the things we all expected to hurt this Hornets team are what actually killed them in Game 3. Notes on the loss after the jump.
- Another great game from CP3, even with multiple Lakers defenders consistently hounding him all night. He finished with an ultra-efficient 22 points on 9-13 shooting, to go along with 8 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals. That assist number is more impressive than you think, considering the number of WIDE open looks that he got his 2-guard teammates who couldn’t buy a bucket. The one problem Paul had in this one was turnovers, especially early on. He finished with an uncharacteristic 5 in the game, including 3 in a 2-minute span in the first quarter. Overall, though, yet another impressive game from CP.
- Though Ariza’s 5-13 shooting night may not look spectacular, he definitely played his most complete offensive game of the series thus far. Trevor finished with 12 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocks, and just one turnover. I mentioned in our writers’ roundtable discussion on At The Hive that, besides the glaring mis-match at PG, the one other spot that the Hornets would have to take advantage of in this series would be to utilize Ariza’s superior rebounding ability; nice to see him do just that in this one.
- Carl Landry played his best offensive game of the series last night, ending up with 23 points on just 6-12 shooting, including an impressive 11-12 night from the line (though at least 3 of those FT makes came in garbage time). He showed multiple impressive post moves against routinely taller defenders, and as a result earned multiple trips to the free throw line. If he can keep playing like that on offense and the Beli/Green combo can hit ANYTHING, the Hornets have a great chance in Game 4.
- Nice to see what Mek can do when he stays out of foul trouble, huh? For Game 3, the answer was 15 points thanks to making 7 of his 9 shots to go along with 8 rebounds. That being said, he just isn’t a viable option on defense against Andrew Bynum; the Lakers’ center is just TOO big for him to handle. It seems like the Hornets’ best defensive matchups would be Gray on Bynum, Okafor on Gasol, and Landry on Odom, but that would mean starting Gray, which just isn’t a viable option for the Hornets from an offensive mindset. Hopefully, Coach Williams is working hard to figure out a way to contain Bynum a little better, or else he’ll likely continue to get everywhere he wants inside.
- We have finally reached our game MVP – Marco Belinelli. No discredit to any of the Lakers, but Beli had to be their MVP last night. Any time the Hornets looked to make even a mini-run last night, particularly in the first quarter, Marco was there to clank a wide-open 3-pointer and keep Los Angeles comfortable. If you look at the box score, the Lakers jumped out to a 7-point lead after one quarter, and basically maintained that same lead until they pulled away in the 4th. If Belinelli can make just one or two of those open threes early on, that seven point lead shrinks, and suddenly LA is sweating a little bit. On Twitter last night, I likened Beli’s performance last night to an inning-ending double play in baseball, and I’m sticking to it; just an absolute rally-killer. Hopefully, he can bounce back Sunday night, but given his inconsistency throughout this season, I’m not really holding my breath.
- Finally, we reach the bench. Thanks to Jason Smith for being the only guy to come to play out of the Hornets’ entire second unit, making all 3 of his shot attempts in 9 minutes of action in addition to a rebound and an assist. Apart from him… ugly. Willie Green bricked all 4 of his attempts (but hey, at least he didn’t turn the ball over!), and Jack made just one of his six shots (can’t grill him too much for one off-game though considering he’s been pretty solid in the first two). If you’re keeping track at home, that means that, not including Chris Paul, the Hornets’ guards finished a collective 3-18 on the night. I heard Marcus Thornton was at the game last night, so he must have enjoyed watching that at least a little bit (though at least he got to watch the player he was traded for have a very nice game).
- As for the rest of the bench, not much to discuss. Gray and Mbenga played 11 minutes total, combining for one missed shot, one free throw made, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, and 3 fouls. Par for the course, really. Quincy Pondexter saw his first legitimate action of the postseason thanks to Belinelli not being to defend anybody or keep anyone (mainly Artest) off of the boards. He missed all three of his shots, but had a nice assist and I guess he did his job on defense.
Game 4 is Sunday night at 8:30 PM back in the New Orleans Arena. I don’t know about you guys, but I would REALLY love a win if for no other reason than to force a 3rd home game in Game 6 on Thursday night. To do that, the Hornets have to find a way to A) not let the Lakers’ size advantage single-handedly decide the game, and B) one of the other Hornets guards have to make a shot! Good luck, Monty. If the Hornets get similar games out of each of their starters besides Beli and get the Beli/Jack/Green combo to make a couple more shots, we should have ourselves a heck of a ballgame on Easter Sunday. Until then – GEAUX HORNETS! BEAT LA!