The New Orleans Hornets look to build on their shocking Game 1 win at the Los Angeles Lakers when they meet Wednesday night at Staples Center.
Oddsmakers have New Orleans as big 11 ½-point road ‘dogs with a total of 188 points. TNT will have the tip-off at 7:30 p.m. (PT).
The Hornets (47-36 straight-up, 40-41-2 against the spread) were double-digit underdogs for Game 1 on Sunday, but won 109-100 in a result that even coach Monty Williams couldn’t have imagined.
The 209 combined points scored went way ‘over’ the 182 ½-point total. The ‘over’ is 4-1 in the meetings between the teams this year, but this is the first where more than 198 points were scored.
Point guard Chris Paul had 33 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He also got to the line 12 times and had 14 assists, continually breaking down the Lakers defense. Los Angeles tried to do switches with its big men as 36-year-old Derek Fisher has no shot of guarding Paul, but that didn’t work either.
Backup guard Jarrett Jack (15 points, five assists) also had success against the Lakers defense, playing alongside Paul at some points.
The Hornets shot much better than L.A. (51.9-45.9 percent) and only committed only three turnovers. That made up for the deficiency on the boards (41-33).
New Orleans was one of the lowest scoring teams in the regular season (94.9 PPG, ranked 27th). That was even with leading scorer David West (18.9 PPG), who was lost for the year in late March (torn ACL).
Coach Williams knows his guys are out-gunned offensively, so he used a different strategy on Sunday. The Hornets pushed the ball whenever they could, trying to beat the Lakers’ big men down the court. That worked well with Carl Landry (17 points) and Aaron Gray (12 points) both contributing big.
Landry was a huge pickup at the trade deadline from Sacramento. He’s now the starting power forward with West out and he’s a proven playoff performer. Gray sprained his ankle last game and is listed as doubtful for Wednesday. That would weaken an already mediocre bench.
The Lakers (57-26 SU, 39-43-1 ATS) are trying not to push the panic button after just one outing. After all, they’re likely to get a lot more production from Pau Gasol than last game (2-of-9, eight points). He was called out by Kobe Bryant and usually responds to such motivation.
Help is also on the way with reserve point guard Steve Blake. He missed Game 1 with chicken pox, but was back at practice on Monday and listed as probable. Blake’s defense is needed against Paul, although it’s still going to take a team effort to contain him.
Blake also needs to infuse a bench that was outscored 39-21. Lamar Odom had just 10 points and Matt Barnes was shutout in eight minutes while battling a sore knee.
Bryant had 34 points, but it took him 26 field goal attempts (making 13). He’s usually the one pulling out close games in the fourth quarter, but Paul outscored him 17-7 as the Hornets beat the Lakers by eight (36-28).
Los Angeles won the four regular season meetings with New Orleans, going 3-1 ATS. Paul averaged just 15.8 PPG in the four games. That was very close to his season average (15.9 PPG), which was a career low.
Paul can’t be counted on for another monster game, which means starter Trevor Ariza (2-of-13, six points) must play a lot better against his former team.
The series shifts back to New Orleans for Game 3 on Friday. The Hornets hope they’re still shocking the world with a 2-0 lead.