Beyond The Mic: Size Killed The Hornets
Lack of energy in the 4th quarter. Poor 3 point shooting. Inadequate bench play. All 3 attributed the Hornets 100-86 home loss the Lakers in Game 3. However, the biggest Lakers contributor…size.
L.A. took advantage of their size early and often. The Lakers had 20 points in the paint in the 1rst quarter alone. A heavy dose of Andrew Bynum put the Hornets on their heels early. Once Bynum got the ball near the paint, he was virtually unstoppable. Emeka Okafor played a good game on the offensive end, and stayed out of foul trouble. But as an undersized Center, he cannot consistently bang bodies with Bynum and hope to slow him down. Bynum’s 14 points and 11 rebounds don’t truly detail the impact he had. He appeared to reinjure his surgically repaired knee early in the 2nd half. Although he remained in the game, he didn’t score again, and rested the majority of the 4th quarter.
“Bynum was huge for them in the first half,” explained Chris Paul.
With Bynum moving a little slower after the injury, Pau Gasol finally broke out of his two and a half game slump. After a meager 4 points in the 1st half, Gasol scored 13 in the second half, finishing with a double-double of 17 and 10. Gasol called for the ball in the post, and then finished strong at the rim.
“We tried to keep him off the block and not let him post deep,” explained Paul. “But he’d get position, get his own rebound, and put it right back.”
Put backs killed the fleur-de-bees last night. Aside from Bynum and Gasol’s interior game, the 14 offensive rebounds and 17 second chance points by L.A. was demoralizing.
“It’s been a thorn in our sides the whole series,” said Monty Williams. “They rebounded well. We force stops and we’re not able to get the rebound. It’s something that we’ve emphasized since day 1 of training camp how important it is to rebound.”
I know Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 30 points, but that’s not why the Hornets lost. Bryant led all scorers in Game 1 with 34. A game the Hornets won by 9 points. Ultimately, it was the size and the length of the Lakers that appeared to be the biggest Hornet obstacle.
“They’ve got the best player in the world in Kobe Bryant, but they know they’re not as good if they don’t come out early and establish that inside game,” explained Hornet big man Aaron Gray. “They’re tall, and they’re skilled.”
By the way, where was Aaron Gray last night? The largest player on New Orleans roster has given the Lakers trouble all year. He was fantastic in Game 1, and pulled down 4 rebounds in his first 3 minutes on the floor in Game 2. Last night, he only saw 7 minutes of game action. I know Okafor stayed out of foul trouble, but DJ Mbenga was getting minutes in the 2nd half that would normally go to Gray. His sprained ankle must have been giving him issues. That’s the only reasonable explanation. After Game 1 Chris Paul explained how much they needed Gray to win the series. Last night, his absence in the paint was conspicuous.
“We have got to get those rebounds, and it’ll make our games a lot easier,” noted Williams. “They got easy basket after easy basket. And I thought that affected us.”
By the 4th quarter, New Orleans started settling for jumpers. The feisty tenaciousness displayed in Games 1 and 2 was nowhere to be found. The size of the Lakers had overwhelmed the Hornets, and New Orleans began to play out of character.
“We didn’t knock down shots. We didn’t get transitions baskets,” said Williams. “We haven’t been a team that allowed our offense to affect us all year.”
The Hornets need to find a way to stymie the Lakers on the interior in Game 4 tomorrow at the Hive. If New Orleans wants to host a Game 6, Game 4 is "win at all costs" for the fleur-de-bees.
“Sunday is a must win,” noted Paul. “We have to protect our home court and win on Sunday…The fans came out and gave us an energy we haven’t seen in a long time. We’re going to need that again on Sunday.”
That and a game plan to help Coach Williams sleep at night.
“I hate losing. I hate everything about it. It makes everything bad. Food (suddenly tastes bad). You don’t sleep well.”
Coming up with a game plan that can counter the Lakers size will be difficult. Chances are, it will keep Williams up at night. Hornet fans hope Monty sleeps like a baby after Sunday's game.