If Games 1 and 2 provided intriguing stories, matchups, coaching battles, and questions for the rest of the series, Game 3 was more or less the open and shut performance by Los Angeles that much of the media predicted. And where Game 2 was decided by tactics, Game 3 was defined by something far simpler - size.
Carl Landry played his guts out on both ends of the floor, especially on the defensive side. He challenged every shot, every pass, every single move that Pau Gasol made, but ultimately, it barely mattered. It didn't matter that Gasol wasn't particularly at his best - he simply shot over Landry over and over and over again. In terms of the other front court matchup, Emeka Okafor certainly held his ground far better than he did in Game 2. But again, Andrew Bynum was too long for him, and he crushed New Orleans on the offensive glass.
Game 3 was decided by the Lakers' offensive rebounding and their ability to get easy, close-range shots, whether off of those offensive rebounds or dribble penetration.
You can't coach size, and it's damn tough to coach against it too.
Some will say Chris Paul should have shot more than he did. He certainly had far more opportunities to get shots off in this game than in the previous one. Phil Jackson relaxed the strong double teams he sent all night on Wednesday, opting to send help inside the three point arc instead of outside of it. There's no doubt that Paul not touching the ball for multiple possessions in a row in the fourth quarter is totally inexplicable. But ultimately, this loss comes down to supremely horrendous play of Chris Paul's supporting cast, primarily on the perimeter.
Marco Belinelli was a complete nonfactor, missing a string of open jumpers, and being abused defensively (though I don't hold that part against him). Jarrett Jack contributed nothing. Willie Green aided the Lakers more than he did the Hornets, taking terrible shots, ignoring teammates, and most importantly, ignoring Chris Paul. After a strong start, Trevor Ariza regressed back to his average self.
From a strategic perspective, it's really tough to take anything meaningful away from this game. After Game 2, there were certainly ways that New Orleans could have come back to combat the Paul doubles. After tonight, what is there to say? Let's be clear - the Hornets gave 100% effort in this game. They battled and battled until the game finally got away from them in the fourth quarter. Emeka Okafor just can't defend Andrew Bynum. Carl Landry can't rebound against Pau Gasol. Jason Smith can't guard Lamar Odom. Those things aren't changing, and unless Chris Paul pumps in another historic performance, Sunday is going to be just as tough.
It's depressing, but it's the reality.