New Orleans Hornets vs. Los Angeles Lakers
In a match-up most thought would end quickly, the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets battle for a chance to go up 3-2 in their best of seven series. The Los Angeles Lakers are 10-point home favorites over the New Orleans Hornets with an over/under total set at 183 points.
These teams are now even at two wins apiece after Chris Paul came through with another otherworldly performance on Sunday. Paul was the game’s high scorer, rebounder, and assist-man. He has undoubtedly become the must-watch player of these playoffs, and that is saying something considering the plethora of talent in the league this season. Forget Derrick Rose’s breathtaking finishes in traffic, Dwight Howard’s power and athleticism, Kevin Durant’s effortless scoring, or the frightening duo down in Miami. Paul has taken a bunch of C-level teammates and carried them to victory twice against the defending champions. He has taken Rajon Rondo’s numbers alongside a trio of Hall-of-Famers, and topped them with Marco Bellineli, Trevor Ariza, and Carl Landry. Tonight he has a chance to push the Lakers to the brink.
Realistically, New Orleans has little shot of pulling the upset in this series, and faces an uphill battle tonight against what should be an angry Lakers team. Los Angeles has yet to play to its potential, and finds itself locked in a competitive first round series for the second straight season. Last year they dismantled the Thunder in game five after losing both contests in Oklahoma City. This Hornets team is not nearly as talented, which does not bode well for this game.
I expect this one to follow a similar script to game two of this series, when New Orleans really struggled to score in a loss. Monty Williams’ team does not have the firepower to sustain a consistent offense. Trevor Ariza has shot well twice this series, but he is one of the most inefficient scorers in the league. Marco Bellineli and Willie Green are anything but reliable. For L.A., Pau Gasol has to step up his game after scoring just eight points in each of the first two games at the Staples Center. Recent history says the Lakers take care of business tonight; however, I would not be thrilled about giving double-digit points to Chris Paul, or taking the points against the defending champs. The better play for me is the under. With an expected drop off in the Hornets offense, the injury to Kobe Bryant, and the inconsistency of the Laker bigs, I think this will be a defensive game. Take the under 183 in the game.