I feel like we’ve all seen this movie before.
The Lakers are going to come out, get the ball inside to Pau Gasol early and often, defend the pick-and-roll better and just flat out execute their game plan in a way they did not in Game 1. It seems like for the last three years we’ve seen the same thing — the Lakers play a bad game or two in the playoffs, then follow it up with enough games of quality play to win the series. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
For the Lakers it’s not so much about adjustments so much as executing the game plan they were given in the first place.
There are a lot of reasons the Lakers were supposed to run away with this series — the Hornets should struggle to slow Kobe Bryant, Gasol, Bynum and even Lamar Odom. But also we can expect the Hornets to push back. Chris Paul is a perfect problem for the Lakers, who struggle to defend point guards (hello Derek Fisher) and Paul can both score and set up teammates as well as anyone in the league. In Game 1 he was brilliant at coming off the high pick and when Laker big men Bynum and Gasol showed out, he kept is dribble going and moved away from the pick, dragging the big man with him and forcing a switch. Then he’d pull back, isolate on the big man and pick the Lakers’ defense apart.
Thing is, it wasn’t just Paul. Whichever Hornet ran the pick-and-roll dissected the Lakers defense seemingly at will. How the Lakers defend that play will be the biggest key to Game 2.
Look for the Lakers to give Paul different looks, laying back on the pick and asking Fisher to fight through (the strategy they used more during their winning streak). That allows others to stay home on shooters and with cutters. Basically, make Paul score but don’t let him get his teammates going. The Steve Nash treatment.
There are lot of things that maybe hard for New Orleans to duplicate from Game 1. The Hornets had just three turnovers and shot 59 percent last game, numbers that just seem unlikely to be sustained. Same with the guys on the bench shooting 73 percent on their way to 39 points.
But it all comes back to CP3 and the pick-and-roll. That will decide this series. And this game.
You kind of expect the Lakers to come out and take charge of this one. But if the Hornets get another win, they will be in place for one of the great upsets in NBA history. And Chris Paul is just the kind of guy who could pull that off.