At 7:30 PM PT tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers will play the New Orleans Hornets in a crucial Game 2 matchup as the Lakers attempt to avoid going to New Orleans Arena in the midst of an 0-2 hole.
One of Los Angeles’ key issues in their Game 1 defeat was their inability to render Hornets All-Star point guard Chris Paul ineffective, leading to Paul scoring 33 points, and garnering 14 assists on his way to a career game. Los Angeles eventually had to resort to switching, which made Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, among other frontcourt players, defend Paul at times, leaving the lane open in the process. The point guard certainly took advantage of the glaring error, as evidenced by his excellent statistics.
Figuring out how to correctly defend the Hornets guard was a key objective during Los Angeles’ Tuesday practice as Kobe Bryant said on the subject “It’s always a challenge, but I feel like we can do a much better job.” In addition to Bryant’s comment, Lamar Odom, the recent winner of the 2011 Sixth Man Award chimed in mentioning, “One of our biggest problems was a lack of communication defensively. We’ve got to try to trap this kid as much as possible, make it as tough on him as we can.”
As far as how to stop Paul, the Lakers should have Bryant defend Paul primarily to negate the majority of the six-footer’s speed advantage as he would have with Derek Fisher receiving the difficult assignment. Number 24 has a reputation for being one of the top defenders in the league as he is an 8-time All-Defensive First Team member, which could make the task of defending Paul much easier when compared to the 36-year-old Fisher.
As for Los Angeles’ frontcourt combination of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, look for the two to capitalize on their size advantage on both ends of the floor and bounce back from their relatively poor Game 1 performances.
As far as the actual result goes, I see Los Angeles claiming victory over New Orleans in this vital Game 2 contest and tie the Western Conference Quarterfinal series at one game apiece.