The Lakers Can Not Find an Antidote Against Chris Paul
With 23 second-half points the Hornet's point guard led his team to victory and now the series is tied to two.
Controlling the paint was going to be the key factor to win game four in the series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Orleans Hornets, which had the defending champions on the lead 2-1. Playing at home and with the support of their people, Sunday night was a great opportunity for the Hornets to square the series at two games apiece. Chris Paul and company were going to make it happen.
With 27 points, 15 assists and 13 rebounds for his first triple double of the season, Chris Paul was simply unstoppable for the Lakers that still can't find an antidote for the cause of their headaches. Not even their franchise player Kobe Bryant was capable or outshining the Hornets' top performer, and LA's No. 24 had nothing but praises towards him at the end of the game, stating that: "you're dealing with one of the best point guards in this game."
Paul's 23 second-half points were crucial for the Hornets' 88-93 victory over Los Angeles, a performance that perfectly backs up Bryant's comment about him. He saved the best for last after a very discrete first half, accounting for 58% of New Orleans' points in the decisive fourth quarter, which also included aborting a shot to assist Jarrett Jack with 9.3 seconds to go to put things 90-86.
That decision of aborting the shot was a great sign of Paul's comradeship, a virtue that many Lakers accuse Bryant of lacking, as he usually takes all the decisive shots despite having teammates open to take those shots, and him not being in the best position to do so.
Questioned about his decision to abort that shot, Paul was brief and concise in his response as he explained that: "I was about to take one of the worst shots I'd taken all game," and saw Jack better positioned.
It was definitely a bad night for Bryant, as he not only lost his second of four showdowns against Paul, but also finished the game with an injured left ankle that forced him to leave the New Orleans Arena in crutches.
His 17 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds were insufficient to guide his team to a victory that would have left them in a pretty favorable situation: a 3-1 lead with game five to be disputed on Tuesday 26 at home, where everything could have been decided on their favor.
Despite this and having missed a 3-point attempt with two minutes to go which could have evened the score to 83, Bryant wasn't the only player responsible for the defeat. Like we said earlier, controlling the paint was the key for winning this game. And here is where the Lakers failed, in great part due to the low performances from players like Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol that together reported just 13 rebounds, in contrast with Paul, who had the same number of rebounds all by himself.
The Lakers have two great problems to face now: number one is stopping Paul of course, and number two is having more presence in the paint. If they manage to solve these problems they shouldn't experience no more counteracts in the series, but it they fail to do so the underdog might end up upsetting the defending champions with an early elimination from the 2011 NBA Playoffs.