The New Orleans Hornets metaphorically waltzed right up to the schoolyard bully yesterday, kicked him square in the nuts and retrieved their lunch money with a 109-100 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center. The crowd was in a constant mood of anticipation rather than jubilation as the Lakers kept making it look like the time to win was at hand. This was time and time again extinguished by Laker errors and Chris Paul brilliance.
Even Ron Artest’s half time buzzer beater was overshadowed by the fact Kobe Bryant had “neck-butted” an empty court side seat after making a fade away. Kobe looked pretty sore afterwards but I actually figured he was trying to do a Willis Reed-lite to inspire his team. On another note though, I would genuinely give my left nut to be sitting in that court side seat. LA, get it together! Why the hell was it empty?
Marc Gasol’s brother Pau, (yes, you heard me) pulled a “1996 Finals Luc Longley” impression by receiving a cut to the face on a head clash and then disappearing for the rest of the game. Gasol looked genuinely rattled for the remainder of the game and was even benched by Phil Jackson late in the fourth quarter. In my opinion Pau has done a lot to squash the “soft” tag over the past three years but today he regressed enormously.
Kobe Bryant got his points as he always does but the Lakers were out-played by a far hungrier team yesterday. The energy of Jarrett Jack, Aaron Gray, Trevor Ariza and Chris Paul was simply an honour to watch. Derek Fisher in my opinion actually played a pretty good game but CP3 was simply out of this world. His ability to keep the dribble alive before making his move is something that only he and Steve Nash can do right now in the entire NBA.
Chris Paul finished the game with 33 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 steals in a simply amazing performance. His ability to have all five Lakers on a string and then be able to finish with such daggers over and over again had me enthralled.
Not that this is a newsflash of any sort but LA’s inability to cover quick scoring guards, again must be a concern for Coach Jackson. If it were purely up to Paul to score 50 each game then the Lakers would be fine, however when Paul wasn’t scoring, he was making guys like Ariza and Aaron Gray look like Hall-of-Famers. His one handed bullet pass to Gray for the “and-one” was Magic Johnson-esque.
While I still don’t “bee-lieve” that the Hornets can win four of seven games in this series, they certainly earned my respect in this one. With Aaron Gray going down with a seemingly destroyed right ankle though, it will make it even tougher from here. The injury may just open the door for Aussie David Andersen to see some considerable court time, which would be nice to see. Gray had a +/- of +25 yesterday and played exactly the energy role the Lakers needed from any one of Brown, Barnes, Artest or Walton. A very interesting Game 2 awaits on Thursday Melbourne time.
The most likely outcome for Game 2 will be a 15-20 point win for Los Angeles. However, if New Orleans can find another hero and the Lakers want to keep playing in second gear, this will be a 2-0 Hornet lead heading to Bourbon Street.