In a first-round series that was billed as David vs. Goliath by various media outlets including this website it's fitting that Sundays pivotal victory for New Orleans was partly the result of big plays by the Hornets two smallest players.
Chris Paul made postseason history back in 2008 with back-to-back 30-and-10 performances vs. Dallas, but if its possible to top that, the 6-footer did so Sunday. Paul notched his second career postseason triple-double, with a dominant and epic 27-point, 13-rebound, 15-assist game. His backup, 6-3 Jarrett Jack, couldnt buy a hoop all night until the Hornets absolutely had to have a basket, dropping in a floater and two free throws in the final 10 seconds.
Leading 88-86, the Hornets had to scramble to get an attempt off to beat the shot clock. Paul fed Jack in the middle of the lane; Jack quickly got rid of the shot from about 7 feet from the hoop but put enough on it for it to drop in. Jacks description of what he thought as the play developed: I honestly dont really know what I was going in there to do. I didnt know if it would be (to try to get) an offensive rebound, or a loose ball. I was just trying to get in the mix. (Chris) found me and luckily I was able to make the shot.
Jack, who has only been a teammate of Pauls since November, but is a close friend of his since their college years in the Atlantic Coast Conference, briefly had difficulty coming up with a way to describe CP3s dazzling showing. I dont even know if there are words to describe it, Jack said. I mean, a triple-double of that magnitude? Were not talking about 10, 10 and 10. It was 27 (points), 13 and 15. Hes 5-foot-9 on a good day. Thirteen rebounds? Those are monster numbers. Those were just unbelievable (stats). Hes an All-Star in this league for a reason.
More analysis of Game 4 from a player-by-player standpoint:
Chris Paul: After going scoreless in the first quarter, put the Hornets on his back for long stretches, highlighted by accurate mid-range and long-distance shooting. He drilled a pair of three-pointers and three other jumpers, while also going 11-for-11 from the foul line. He uncharacteristically had gone 20-for-29 from the stripe in the first three games, but got back to his usual accuracy Sunday. Racked up 14 points in the fourth quarter, partly because hed been so difficult to stop that the Lakers were always on their heels.
Marco Belinelli: No Hornets player has been shown more votes of confidence amid rough times than the shooting guard, who was 3-for-11 from the field but still logged 32 minutes. He was subbed out late in the fourth quarter for Willie Green, which was why Green was involved in several game-deciding plays. The fact that NOLAs best three-point shooter during the regular season has been so inaccurate in this series yet its still tied at 2 is another testament to what this team has accomplished so far vs. the Lakers.
Trevor Ariza: Paul was the game MVP and Jack made the biggest shot of the night, but give significant credit to Ariza for setting the tone in the first quarter. Arizas aggressive attitude and willingness to drive into the Lakers defense early seemed to establish that the Hornets would not back down Sunday. It would be fairly difficult for Ariza to play a better game. He finished with 19 points and helped hold Kobe Bryant to 5-for-18 shooting.
Carl Landry: Like Ariza, his demeanor and ferocity against the Lakers paid huge dividends. Landry, who also played very well vs. the Lakers in the 2009 playoffs, continued to provide effective interior scoring and did a commendable job on defense. Landry on his motivation to beat L.A.: (Playing against the Lakers), its a big stage. Everyones trying to knock off the top team. If you want to win a championship, youre going to have to knock off the Lakers, anyway. Why not go out and have the best possible game you can have? We dont have anything to lose.
Emeka Okafor: Still not putting up Emeka-like numbers at games end, with six points, six rebounds and five fouls, but he made a few immense defensive plays and was a much bigger presence overall than early in the series.
Jarrett Jack: Playing time (13 minutes) dipped drastically after he didnt play well in the previous two games, but like in many instances during the regular season, he was relied upon during crunch time and delivered. He was 0-for-5 from the field prior to his crucial (and only) basket.
Aaron Gray: Given everything that happened Sunday, it might be easy to overlook what Gray did in the first half, but we shouldnt. The 7-footer scored seven points in the second quarter, a big factor in swinging the momentum in favor of NOLA, which led 49-45 at intermission.
Willie Green: With NOLA leading by 4 in the final minute, the Hornets tracked down a jump ball and Ariza threw ahead to Green, who had a contested breakaway layup roll out. Green said he was expecting contact from the rough and tumble Ron Artest on the play and got some, but there was no foul whistled. The first-year Hornet drilled a big three-pointer and free throw earlier in the fourth quarter.
Jason Smith: Quiet night in four minutes of action, picked up two fouls while trying to defend Lamar Odom.
D.J. Mbenga: Nice work in five minutes, with a blocked shot and a nifty reverse layup on a fast break, off a feed from Paul.
For complete postgame quotes from both teams, click here.