The Los Angeles Lakers tonight face the New Orleans Hornets at home before embarking upon an extended road trip, in which they hope to continue their newfound momentum after beating down the Utah Jazz and gritting it out against the league-leading Oklahoma City Thunder. Momentum is a fickle thing; however the Lakers seem to be finally clicking in some way, shape or form. Whether or not the inversion of normality in switching Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash's roles is a sustainable long-term strategy for success is yet to be seen. For now, it's simply on us to sit back and enjoy the ride--hopefully it can carry us into the playoffs, at least.
Let's get one thing straight: The New Orleans Hornets are not the Oklahoma City Thunder; to be frank they're not even the Utah Jazz. The Hornets are a substandard team, 14th in the West and 25th overall; they lack offensive firepower, star power, and a true identity. Furthermore, these matters are compounded by a simply atrocious defense, the Hornets' defensive rating of 108.8 being fourth-worst in the league. I, for one, am looking forward to watching Bryant and Nash tear up the Hornets' defense with their pinpoint passing and deadly shot selection.
It shall be interesting to see how well Kobe matches up with Eric Gordon whilst maintaining his new offensive playmaking role - if anyone lights the Lakers up, it'll be Gordon. On the other hand, witnessing Kobe simultaneously put on his best Nash and Gary Payton impersonations would be quite a sight to behold. The Hornets' frontcourt also presents some interesting match-ups: Robin Lopez is your standard back-to-the-basket center, bigger than Dwight but nowhere near as effective. The other members of the frontcourt rotation, however, include talented young big man Anthony Davis and sharpshooter Ryan Anderson, the latter being exactly the type of power forward the Lakers would die for due to his range and quick trigger. The onus will be on Pau Gasol, Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison to keep these guys in check - whilst Clark is relatively well-suited to dealing with the two, Gasol and Jamison may struggle with Anderson's range and Davis' athleticism.
Team-wide, the Hornets very rarely force turnovers and allow opposing teams to shoot a very high effective field-goal percentage, a favourable omen for the Lakers. They are, however, a decent rebounding team; nonetheless Dwight et al. should have the advantage there. Their offensive attack is largely mired in mediocrity - though the young core of Vasquez, Davis, Anderson, Lopez and Gordon have respectable individual offensive games, Monty Williams has not been able to meld it into a truly dangerous whole. Vasquez, however, may be able to break the Lakers down due to his superior athleticism - he'll be a nice challenge for Steve Blake in his return from surgery.
The Lakers' time is now; these last two wins have provided a spark that the Lakers desperately needed. Now the onus is on the squad to maintain this momentum, as every loss digs them deeper into their lottery hole. Last game, we saw that the Lakers can, on occasion, hang with the best teams in the League; unfortunately they have not yet earned an invitation to do so when it really counts. All that's left to do is keep on winning and hope for the best.
- The Lakers had plenty to say at practice yesterday, check out all the videos here! Dwight embracing Kobe's confrontational demeanor? Mike D'Antoni saying there isn't a "system" he's running? Yep!
- Be sure to give At the Hive a look before they become Pelicans