After the Lakers flat out out-muscled us in game 3, the Hornets look to even the series at 2-2 against the Lakers tonight in the Hive. Just like Game 2, the Hornets played a sloppy, disjointed game but still had a chance to win until the middle of the fourth quarter.
5 things that need to happen for the Hornets to win tonight.
I'm not even going to mention CP3 needs to have a monster game, because at this point it's pretty obvious if he doesn't tear everyone apart the Hornets have no shot. So here are 5 OTHER things that need to happen.
#1- Guards not named CP3 need to come to life
Jarrett Jack, Willie Green, and Marco, the spotlight's on you. The three of you were great in game 1 but non-existent in games 2 and 3. Actually, non-existent isn't fair- the three combined for plenty of turnovers and missed jumpers on offense and tons of getting burnt on defense. They went 6 for 21 (0 for 4 from three) in game 2 and 3 of 18 (1 of 7 from three) in game 3. The Hornets are already extremely short on offense, and CP3 is getting them plenty of open looks- if two of these three don't bring their A game tonight and start forcing open jumpers, there is NO way the Hornets will win. If they can hit open jumpers, it will open up the floor for CP3 and the game will start to get real interesting.
#2- Defensive rebounding and inside presence
The Lakers CRUSHED the Hornets on the glass in game 3. Seriously, I feel like every Lakers offensive possession would end with a missed jumper that Odom, Gasol, or Bynum would grab the rebound and then volleyball to themselves over all the Hornets big men before sending home a two hand jam. It's tough for the Hornets bigs- they're clearly outsized by the Lakers bigs, but we just cannot let Gasol and Bynum muscle us around like that. Obviously, it's easier said than done, as these three muscling everyone around is the reason why the Lakers are the two time defending champs, but Mek, Landry, and the gang need to find a way to clean up the glass.
#3- Let the Lakers keep shooting threes
The Lakers shot an uncharacteristic 16 threes in game 3, making 7 of the. Kobe Bryant, in particular, was deadly from long range, going 4 of 7 from deep with several of the makes coming with a hand in his face. Derek Fisher and even Pau Gasol also had dagger three pointers at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters that killed Hornets runs. And you know what- that's ok. If the Lakers want to become a pull up three point shooting team, the Hornets need to let them and thank the gods the Lakers aren't feeding their big men. Not one Laker scares me from deep, and that includes Kobe, who made less than 1/3 of his threes during the regular season. if they want to try to beat us from three, let them.
#4- Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
The Hornets had 14 turnovers in game 3, 16 in game 2, and 3 in game 1... guess which game they won??? Again, the Hornets have limited offensive firepower, and we can't be giving up our precious possessions by turning the ball over. If the Hornets have double-digit turnovers, there's almost no way they can beat the Lakers.
#5- Ariza, Landry, and Oak- you stay classy
First- big props to Ariza for being a big boy and becoming the only Hornet to rebound in game 3- he had 12. These three combined for 50 points on 18 of 32 shooting... that's phenomenal!!! While I still wish Ariza would cut out the "shot a contested jumper with 18 seconds left on the shot clock routine," the three of them did a great job of attacking the rim, finishing what CP3 started, and just generally doing their part on offense. Once again- the Hornets need offense anywhere they can take it, and we need these guys to score. As a bonus, when they're scoring, it means the Lakers bigs are working on defense and picking up fouls, which limits them offensively!!!
The Lakers are six point favorites.... this is the problem with writing a Hornets blog and being a Hornets fan. I know the Lakers will probably cover. I know Beli and Willie need to knock down jumpers for the Hornets to have a shot, and I know that looks real unlikely based on recent history. I know the Hornets are clearly outmatched, and even CP3's brilliance can't overcome constant double and triple teams without some help..... but my heart says the Hornets are going to pull a Rocky tonight and shock the world.... Screw it, I'm going with my heart. Hornets win, and Beli drills 5 threes on 8 attempts.
Hornets 96, Lakers 89
Bonus note- Despite my worries, the crowd was AWESOME in game 3. Yes, there were a few Lakers fans (including one who still had the tags on his Kobe jerset, and three obnoxious, trashy fans in front of me who would do the same annoying "sit down, quiet down" move after every bucket), but the Hornets fans more than made up for it. Let's keep that same energy up tonight and see if we can't cheer our team on to the upset!