When I call this win a “shocking” one, I am simply referring to the general population, because I for one never doubted this Hornets team for a second. After all, why should I have? It’s not like the Bees entered this postseason playing the worst basketball of their season or anything. Why bet against a team firing on all cylinders? …Okay, I’ll cut the crap. I am just as astounded as the rest of you to see the Hornets sitting on a 1-0 series advantage against the two-time defending world champions, the Los Angeles Lakers. Up against a team with more depth at basically every spot on its roster outside of the point guard position, the Hornets weren’t about to let the Lake Show cruise to victory like most of the basketball world expected. As a result, not only were they able to hang around with LA, they never even trailed after tying the game at 14 with 4:35 remaining in the first quarter. Although the game remained close essentially from start to finish, the Hornets proved to everyone – but most importantly, themselves – that they can compete with this Lakers team and close them out in crunch time, even on the road. Game notes after the jump on one of the biggest wins in New Orleans basketball history.
- First of all, hats off to an absolutely dominant performance from vintage CP3. Paul led all Hornets with 33 points and was just one point off Bryant’s game high total, and it took Chris eight less shots to get there. In addition, he added a game-high 14 assists (just three less than the Lakers’ entire team’s total), a game-high 4 steals (as a team, Los Angeles totaled just one), and tied Ariza for the team lead with seven rebounds. Oh, and on top of all that, he only committed two turnovers; as a team, the Hornets turned the ball over just three times, tying an NBA playoff record. How’s that for a statement game from the team’s all-star point guard?
- Belinelli did his part to help the Hornets jump out to an early lead, scoring 8 points in the first quarter on 3-5 shooting and made both of his 3-point attempts. Though he only finished 4-9 in 30 minutes of action, he took care of the ball when it was in his hands and held his ground on defense.
- If there was one disappointment in this game on the offensive end, it was Trevor Ariza. After seemingly making solid progress on his shot selection and overall style of play over the final few games of the regular season, Ariza finished 2-13 in this one. Though some of his long-range jumpers came with time running out on the shot clock, I don’t think I’ll find many people who will argue that Trevor should be taking the 2nd most shots on the team in any given game. If he can pick his spots better in game 2, he should be able to bounce back fine offensively. On the defensive side, however, Ariza was absolutely fantastic. Though Bryant scored 34 points, it took him 26 shots to get those points, and Ariza made him work for the vast majority of them. Excellent work by Trevor defensively.
- Solid night from Landry, finishing with 17 points on 6-13 shooting to go along with 5 rebounds. More importantly, however, he did a better job on Pau Gasol than I could have ever hoped. Though Gasol’s off night (2-9 for 8 pts and 6 reb) cannot be attributed to just Landry, he absolutely did his part in keeping the Lakers’ all-star forward from getting into any sort of rhythm.
- One Hornets’ center fouled out after scoring just 4 points and pulling down 2 rebounds in just 22 minutes of action… and surprisingly enough, it wasn’t Aaron Gray! Emeka Okafor got into early foul trouble, keeping him from spending any long stretches of the game on the court. As a result, the Big Gray Monster got the call, and boy, did he deliver. Gray finished with a season high 12 points on 5-5 shooting; though he only grabbed one board, he was a force on defense all night, and did his part to keep both Gasol and Bynum from doing any major damage. Unfortunately, Gray suffered a mild ankle sprain in the final two minutes of the game, and it is currently unknown if he will be available for game 2; therefore, it’s even more important for Okafor to come back strong on Wednesday night.
- As for the rest of the Hornets’ bench – great games all around. Willie Green was solid, making 4 of his 7 shots to finish with 8 points and got a couple rebounds as well. The true star guard off the bench for New Orleans, however, was Jarrett Jack. Jack scored 15 points on just six shots, which equates to an astounding 2.5 points per shot attempt. Not only did he score efficiently, he also racked up 5 assists and 4 rebounds while not turning the ball over once. If there was one reason that the Hornets were able to hang with the Lakers with Paul on the bench, Jack was it.
- Jason Smith and DJ Mbenga each made minor contributions of their own. Smith made one of his three shots in 14 minutes of action, but his 3 rebounds and 2 steals were undoubtedly more important than any shot he put up. Mbenga played 6 minutes and did just what the Hornets needed him to do; be a wide body in the paint on defense, and knock down an incredibly ill-advised fade-away 11-footer in the paint.
- This was such an incredible overall team effort from the Hornets. If you had tried to tell me before this series that the Bees would outscore the Lakers 52-34 in the paint in any game, I would have laughed at you and probably never spoken to you about basketball again. Shows how much I know, huh? Combine that lovely stat with the +10 team turnover margin, and you have quite a nice recipe for success against the Lakers. To have a chance to win more games in this series, the Hornets will have to come close to replicating those numbers.
Still a long way to go to pull off one of the biggest upsets in NBA playoff history, but I sure love the start! Game 2 tips off at 9:30 PM central time on Wednesday night, again at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Our friends at Hornets247.com put on an excellent watch party at the Doors Pub on Maple Street in Uptown New Orleans for game 1, and will be doing it again for game 2 on Wednesday night. Find us out there and come cheer on your Hornets in the company of some fellow loud, passionate New Orleans fans! GEAUX HORNETS!