Quantcast 2011 NBA Western Conference Playoffs: Round One - Los Angeles vs New Orleans

 

2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Western Conference First Round

Western Conference First Round Game 4 - New Orleans 93, L.A. Lakers 88 – Series tied, 2-2

 

This series isn’t turning out how anyone predicted. It’s also not going to end Tuesday night when Game 5 is staged in Los Angeles.

 

With the New Orleans Hornets missing All-Star forward David West due to injury, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers were expected to march through to the second round relatively unscathed. It seems that while the public didn’t exactly forget about the greatness of New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, the professional basketball world underestimated his perceived ability to carry an underequipped team to a higher level. The shifty floor general put on yet another mind-boggling performance, his second in four games this series, and the Hornets evened up the matchup at two games apiece. Paul dazzled a thrilled Easter Sunday crowd at New Orleans Arena. Going up against a Phil Jackson-coached defense, Paul produced a triple double through just three quarters, and the gaudy stat line simply epitomized the degree of influence he exerted on the game at large.

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If Paul rose to the occasion on one side of the divide, Laker superstar Kobe Bryant struggled to find a rhythm most of the night. Bryant did not score in the first half as the Hornets secured a four-point advantage on the back of Paul and teammate Trevor Ariza, a former Laker who scored 19 points on 8-of-17 shooting to lend balance and ballast to the New Orleans attack.

 

Bryant got going in the second half, but things were never easy for him. Bryant finished with 17 points on 5-of-18 shooting. The Hornets kept him confined to the perimeter and didn’t back down from the game’s best closer. Because of this, Paul was able to take center stage. With the score knotted at 69 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Paul engineered a 12-3 run over the next six minutes. Paul’s jumper at the 6:13 mark gave New Orleans an 81-72 lead. The Lakers responded with a run of their own and with 33 seconds remaining, trailed by just two points at 88-86. Showing tremendous poise, Paul found Jarrett Jack cutting through the lane, and Jack found the bottom of the basket on a fall-away jumper to give the Hornets a 90-86 lead with just nine seconds to go. Jack later sealed the game with a few more free throws, forcing the Lakers to play a Game 6 (at the very least) in the first round for the second straight postseason.

The headline, byline, and game story belong to Paul. The elite floor general finished with 27 points, 15 assists, and 13 rebounds. Playing for a team that is severely undermanned and outmatched by the Lakers, it is a tribute to Paul’s greatness that the Hornets have tied this series at two games apiece.

 

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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer


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