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


2011 NBA Playoff Preview – Western Conference First Round

(7) New Orleans Hornets vs. (2) Los Angeles Lakers


It’s the middle of April and the back-to-back defending world champions are poised for yet another deep run as the 2011 NBA Playoffs begin.

Fresh off three straight NBA Finals appearances and two titles, Phil Jackson – now in his final year as an NBA head coach – will face the New Orleans Hornets in the first round beginning Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. The Lakers will be a going-away favorite in this first round collision, not only from a talent standpoint, but in terms of experience and any other intangible measurement one might want to discuss.

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Another subplot affecting this series is the scale of injury which applies to the respective teams’ big men. It is a tale of two knees, one of which was damaged so severely as to require immediate surgery. A crushing blow was delivered to Hornet power forward David West, whose injury late in the regular season has cast a dark cloud over New Orleans’s playoff chances. In Los Angeles, the prognosis was far more encouraging. Laker center Andrew Bynum went down in a heap of pain on the second to last day of the season. A history of knee injury issues had Laker fans thinking the worst. Thankfully for the Lake Show, Bynum’s injury was not serious; he has been medically cleared to participate in the postseason.

The Lakers began the second half of the season playing the best basketball in the league. A scorching 17-1 run following the February All-Star break had the Lakers in contention for the top spot in the West. Surprisingly, a five-game losing streak down the stretch has put the brakes on what many had been viewing as just another expected procession to an NBA title. In an even more shocking turn of events, point guard Steve Blake has contacted the chicken pox virus and his out indefinitely. It has been that strange a spring in the City of Angels. That being said, no one is questioning whether Los Angeles has the horses for another playoff run in the latter half of springtime. With the game’s best closer in Kobe Bryant and a front court of Pau Gasol, Bynum, and sixth-man Lamar Odom, the Lakers are every bit as formidable as the past two seasons.



New Orleans has been surprising all season long. First-year coach Monty Williams has been tremendous, revitalizing a team that had missed the playoffs last season. Williams’s chief achievement has been his ability to give star point guard Chris Paul a new breath of life. Paul’s numbers have declined in almost every statistical category when compared to his last injury-free season in 2009, but that hasn’t prevented the Hornets from being successful. The additions of Carl Landry, Trevor Ariza, and Emeka Okafor have been noteworthy. Unfortunately for the Hornets, the loss of an 18-point, 7- rebound, 50-percent shooter in West seems to be too much to overcome. (Even with West in the lineup, the Hornets lost three times to the Lakers this season.) In the matchup without West, Los Angles rolled to an 18-point victory.

Yes, it’s going to be that kind of a series… unless Bynum and Kobe both suffer severe injuries.


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By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer

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