When asked by reporters, Hornets players have quickly brushed aside the notion that they have to play perfect basketball to beat the Lakers. We didnt play perfect in Game 1 (a victory), Chris Paul has responded a few times to that line of questioning. As they try to post a memorable first-round upset against the Lakers, though, there are some things that are in their control such as their ability to protect the ball. They cant grow taller or add weight to their frames in order to hold their ground in the paint against Los Angeles.
In losing Game 5 at Staples Center, turnovers and boards proved to be extremely damaging to New Orleans. The Hornets will look back at their 19 turnovers as one of the biggest reasons they couldnt hang in for the entire night against the two-time defending champions. The Lakers also were dominant on the backboards, with a 15-3 edge in offensive rebounds. NOLA knew going into the series that rebounding was a category it probably would lose to L.A.s immense starting frontcourt, but the key was to keep the margin relatively small. That didnt happen Tuesday, with the Lakers taking advantage of countless opportunities on offense, to the tune of a 22-2 edge in second-chance points. The result was a 106-point output for the hosts, their largest of the series so far.
On Wednesday morning/afternoon, both teams will head back across the country to Louisiana for Game 6 on Thursday in the New Orleans Arena. Tip-off will be at 7 p.m. Game 7 (if necessary) would take place on Saturday, with the potential start time to be determined by the outcome of other Thursday NBA games.
A player-by-player look at what transpired for the Hornets during Game 5, a game the visitors trailed only 79-72 entering the fourth quarter:
Chris Paul: He was getting pretty much whatever he wanted in the first half, finding his own open shots and setting up teammates for quality looks. The Lakers did a better job against him in the second half, holding him without a basket until he drained three mid-range jumpers in the fourth quarter. Overall, it was another 20-10 game, with 20 points (6-for-12 shooting) and 12 assists. Monty Williams said Pauls drop-off in assists in the second half was simply due to we werent making shots.
Marco Belinelli: Perhaps the best development of Game 5 from a Hornets perspective was Belinellis breakout performance. Hed struggled big-time offensively prior to this game, but the shooting guard had 21 points on 8-for-14 shooting. In the first four games, he totaled 26 points on 11-for-37 shooting.
Trevor Ariza: Whether its the familiarity of playing against several former Lakers teammates, the comfort he has in his hometown or some other unknown factor, the small forward is enjoying by far his best offensive stretch of 2010-11 at the right time the playoffs. Think about this: his regular-season high was 22 points at Washington on New Years Day. He matched that Tuesday, while also getting 22 in Game 2 and 19 in Game 4.
Carl Landry: The biggest concern for Williams wasnt that he only scored eight points; it was that Landry only took only seven shots from the field, making three. Hes got to get more attempts, Williams said. Landry's offensive role may have been directly hampered by NOLA taking more perimeter shots than usual.
Emeka Okafor: It's continued to be a frustrating series for the starting center, who finished with five points, five rebounds and three turnovers in 38 minutes. The Lakers are probably just not a good matchup for the 6-foot-10 pivot, but its been surprising that the UConn product hasnt made a larger impact during his first trip to the NBA playoffs.
Willie Green: Helped keep NOLA close in the first half with an aggressive eight points, including a couple drives in the lane. He scored six of the Hornets 19 second-quarter points; they trailed 54-51 at intermission.
Aaron Gray: Held down the paint well during his early stint, grabbing five rebounds in the first quarter. For the game he notched six boards and a blocked shot in 14 minutes.
Jarrett Jack: Following his heroic finish to Game 4, he continued to be unable to locate his shooting touch, going 0-for-3 from the field. His memorable in-the-lane shot to close Game 4 was one of two made baskets hes had in his last 15 field-goal attempts.
Jason Smith: Drilled a mid-range jumper in the first quarter, part of NOLAs 32-23 edge in that period. Was otherwise quiet in eight minutes of action.
Quincy Pondexter: Played the final minute, going 0-for-1 on a halfcourt heave at the buzzer.
Patrick Ewing Jr.: Made his NBA playoff debut, appearing in a game for the first time since April 13 at Dallas. He drained a three-pointer from the left corner in the last minute.
For complete quotes from both teams, click here.