Where have all those skeptics that criticize the two-time defending NBA champions gone? Nowhere in sight now, but for how long? It seems as though every time that the Los Angeles Lakers lose a game or two they come out and talk about age and depth as a weakness that will keep this team from repeating for the third straight year.
Then again, after a couple of wins in a row it’s those same people that talk about age and depth as a strength that will help them get back through to the finals. The Lakers flexed their muscle again on Wednesday night to beat the New Orleans Hornets 87-78 and even their best-of-seven opening round series at one win each.
Paul exploded in game one with double-digit totals in both points and assists, and head coach Phil Jackson and company knew that in order to slow down the Hornets they would have to slow down Paul. Bryant held his man to just 20 points and nine assists on the night, as well as just three rebounds. With his numbers down across the board from game one, Paul could not come close to helping his team to the same result as he did in sports betting game one.
With Bryant doing an excellent job guarding Paul, the rest of the Lakers’ starting five rallied to take more of a role in the offense at the other end of the floor. The biggest spark came from the return of Andrew Bynum, who dropped 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the win. Bynum’s play on the boards was one of the decisive factors in the game, and he helped to take the load off of Pau Gasol after the latter struggled in the opener.
Los Angeles should have no trouble getting through to the second round and that is where the real tests will come. Until the Kentucky derby betting race has passed it will be difficult to really project how this team will perform in the 2011 postseason, and until then they have to be regarded for what they are, which is champions. There are some pieces that will need to show improvement, but for now the Lakers have proven that their game one loss to New Orleans was simply an aberration.
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