Los Angeles wins series 4-2 (Game 1 of 6)

Los Angeles wins series 4-2

Game 1: Sunday, April 17th
Game 2: Wednesday, April 20th
Game 3: Friday, April 22nd
Game 4: Sunday, April 24th
Game 5: Tuesday, April 26th
Game 6: Thursday, April 28th

Hornets 109

(46-36, 18-23 away)

Lakers 100

(57-25, 30-11 home)

    Coverage: ABC

    3:30 PM ET, April 17, 2011

    STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA

    1 2 3 4 T
    NO 26 29 18 36109
    LAL 24 23 25 28100

    Top Performers

    NO: C. Paul 33 Pts, 7 Reb, 14 Ast, 4 Stl

    LAL: K. Bryant 34 Pts, 4 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Blk

    Chris Paul's 33 points help Hornets pull away, stun Lakers

    Associated Press

    LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul and a few teammates sneaked across the street from their hotel to Staples Center the night before the New Orleans Hornets began the postseason, eagerly hoisting up a few shots in the shadows of the Lakers' imposing championship banners.

    With their tumultuous regular season finally a memory, Paul said the Hornets were almost unbearably eager for the playoffs to start.

    Maybe that's why New Orleans got the drop on the defending champs in a stunning series opener.

    Paul had 33 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds, flawlessly leading the Hornets down the stretch of a 109-100 victory Sunday.

    Carl Landry scored 17 points and Jarrett Jack added 15 for the seventh-seeded Hornets, who overcame Los Angeles' major size advantage with cagey defense and a disciplined offensive approach that led to just three turnovers, tying an NBA playoff record.

    New Orleans also got a phenomenal game from Paul, who scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and led a decisive 8-0 run after the Lakers trimmed their lead to four points. Repeatedly shredding Los Angeles' defense on pick-and-roll plays, the four-time All-Star was at his playmaking apex.

    "I've struggled all season long, trying to figure out where to pick my spots," said Paul, who inscribed his sneakers with the No. 30 of injured teammate David West, New Orleans' leading scorer. "It's the playoffs. It's a whole other energy."

    Game 2 is Wednesday at Staples Center.

    A few hours after eighth-seeded Memphis produced a series-opening surprise in San Antonio, Paul and his Hornets put another intriguing wrinkle in the NBA postseason.

    Kobe Bryant scored 34 points for the Lakers, who opened the postseason with the same halfhearted effort that comprised much of their regular season after three straight exhausting trips to the NBA finals.

    Los Angeles' 7-foot starters, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, were widely expected to be an awful matchup for smallish New Orleans, but New Orleans rookie coach Monty Williams concocted an impressive game plan to minimize the big men's impact.

    "Our defense, I thought, was late," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "I think we were late on everything. They were the aggressors, and they stayed aggressive. ... I think they respect the Hornets. I just don't think they were keyed in on what they have to do."

    Ron Artest had 16 points and 11 rebounds for the Lakers, who swept the four-game regular-season series with New Orleans. They had won their last six playoff series openers since Houston beat them in the Western Conference semifinals in 2009 on Los Angeles' way to Bryant's fourth championship.

    Los Angeles never grabbed a second-half lead despite another dynamite game from Bryant. The most glaring problem was Gasol, who struggled to eight points -- just two more than his season low -- on 2-for-9 shooting with just six rebounds.

    A few people in the Staples Center crowd pointedly heckled Gasol in the final minutes, while other fans booed as they streamed out of the building.

    "I'm disappointed, yeah. Stunned, surprised," Gasol said. "But we were the ones responsible for that to happen, so we have to own up to that and come back to work in the next couple of days and get the series where we want it to be."

    The playoff pressure of Staples Center clearly didn't bother the Hornets, who lost West to a serious knee injury last month and lost three straight games to finish the regular season. Williams made his playoff debut along with Emeka Okafor, Marco Belinelli and Jack -- but the Hornets had more poise down the stretch.

    Artest's free throws pulled Los Angeles within four with 3 minutes left, but Paul led the Hornets to points on four consecutive possessions, setting off a celebration confined entirely to the Hornets' bench.

    "A lot of people counted us out from the beginning," Landry said. "A lot of people probably still count us out. That's cool. A lot of people might think this game might have been lucky, but we play as a team. We play as a collective unit. We're without David West, but we've still got dudes on this team that can step up."

    Lamar Odom had 10 points and one rebound in 31 minutes of play, while Bynum contributed 13 points and nine rebounds but wasn't his usual defensive force in his first game back from a hyperextended right knee.

    "It's always good for us, when I think about the personality of our team, to be humbled a little bit," Odom said. "Sometimes that's the best thing for us, to be humbled. To lose on our home court in the playoffs, probably against a team that people think we should handle easy, I think it's good for us."

    Aaron Gray had a season-high 12 points for New Orleans, but was helped off the court by teammates with 1:07 to play after Gasol accidentally stepped on his right foot while fighting for a rebound. Williams said Gray has a mildly sprained ankle.

    Bryant bruised his neck when he tumbled into the front row after hitting a jumper in the final minute of the first half, spending the last 10 seconds facedown in pain while Artest hit a 43-foot jumper at the buzzer. Bryant got up slowly and missed halftime warmups, but returned without missing a beat.

    Game notes

    G Trey Johnson, recalled from the D-League by the Lakers just five days earlier, played six minutes in the second quarter. Johnson was with the Lakers in training camp, and he suited up for Toronto earlier this season. ... Bryant collided with the courtside chair next to Tim Leiweke, the chief executive of sports conglomerate AEG. ... Fans near courtside included Jack Black, Seal,, former Arizona forward Derrick Williams and Brewers owner Mark Attanasio.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 109 100
    FGM-FGA 41-79 (.519) 34-74 (.459)
    3PM-3PA 4-11 (.364) 6-13 (.462)
    FTM-FTA 23-33 (.697) 26-33 (.788)
    Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 4-33 9-41
    Assists 24 17
    Turnovers 3 13
    Steals 8 1
    Blocks 1 5
    Fast Break Points 6 2
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 22 (0/1) 24 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 12 2

    Top Performers

    New Orleans
    Los Angeles
    Chris Paul Paul
    Points: 33
    Reb: 7
    Ast: 14
    Stl: 4
    Blk: 0
    Kobe Bryant Bryant
    Points: 34
    Reb: 4
    Ast: 5
    Stl: 0
    Blk: 1

    Research Notes

    NEXT LEVEL: During the regular season the Lakers were one of the best teams at guarding the ball handler in pick and roll situations, ranking 6th in both points per play allowed and opponent field goal percentage. That same defense got torched by the pick and roll in Game 1 vs the Hornets. New Orleans averaged nearly twice as many PPP as the Lakers allowed all year and had a FG pct of 69.2!... 30 points higher than the Lakers had been allowing.
    A day after Derrick Rose delivered an MVP-like performance with a playoff career-high 39 points in the Bulls comeback win, Chris Paul went out and dropped 33 points and 14 dimes on the Lakers. So which performance was better? While Rose outscored Paul by 6, CP3 accounted for a total of 63 of the Hornets' 109 points, 10 more than Rose contributed in Chicago's win.
    Kobe Bryant scored seven points in a two-minute span during the fourth quarter from 8:26 to 6:31. Trevor Ariza, who had allowed 20 points to Bryant on 16 plays through three quarters, was not guarding Bryant during this run. Yet, Ariza switched back on Bryant, and the moved paid off, as he held Bryant scoreless for the rest of the game.
    The Lakers could not contain Chris Paul when he had the basketball. Paul made 9-of-12 shots on pick-and-roll and isolation plays, in the process creating mismatches that he exploited.
    Paul Chris Paul became the 4th player in the last 20 seasons to register at least 33 points and 14 assists in a playoff game. Paul's points and assists accounted for 63 of the Hornets' 109 points (57.8 percent).
    Sunday marked Kobe Bryant's 79th career 30-point game in the playoffs. He trails Michael Jordan by 30 for the most such games in NBA history.
    Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson have long had an ongoing dialogue about just how involved Kobe needs to be involved in the offense, at least in terms of the volume of shots he takes. Including Sunday's playoff loss to the Hornets, the Lakers are now 9-9 this season when Bryant takes at least 25 shots from the field. When he keeps those attempts to 15 or fewer, the Lakers are a perfect 14-0. In a related note, no other Laker had even 10 field goal attempts.
    From Elias: Since playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1983-84, this is the first time a conference has seen its 1 and 2 seeds both lose their first games in same postseason.
    In 20 career regular season games vs the Lakers, Chris Paul wasn't stopped, averaging 20.3 PPG and 11.8 APG, the highest by any active player. More of the same in Game 1 today... 33 points and 14 assists
    Hornets entered the game have scored fewer than 100 points in 18 consecutive road playoff games, tied for the longest current streak in the league with Indiana... That streak is now snapped

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