Saturday, 16 April 2011

NBA playoff series vs. Los Angeles Lakers may tell New Orleans Hornets a lot

Posted by chardyboy on Saturday, April 16, 2011 0 comments


In Laker Land, the brooms were out immediately.

At sunrise Thursday out West, the question was: “Who do we play after we sweep that team from New Orleans?”
And the answer: “Probably the Mavericks. They’ll beat the Trail Blazers.”

That’s how the Q-and-A goes for the defending champions, who were 4-0 against their first-round foe in the regular season, when you feel it has no business being in the playoffs.

I can hear one Lakers fan telling another: “If we lose one game to those guys, it would shock me. If we lose four, it would be the biggest upset in the history of mankind.”

That’s understandable.

As the biggest surprise of the 16 survivors, the Hornets are there because of defense.

And what do they do? They close out a 46-36 season by giving up 121 points in a 32-point defeat.
They close out with three of their poorest performances of the season.

And the Lakers?

Well, they did not exactly apply a spectacular finish to a 57-25 season, breaking even in their final 10 games, surrendering a 20-point lead to the 24-58 Sacramento Kings on Wednesday before winning in overtime.

In that game, the Lakers had to overcome a 33-point performance by former Hornet Marcus Thornton, and they needed a 3-pointer by Kobe Bryant in the final five seconds of regulation to stay alive.

Think about it. Thornton came within a whisker of changing the playoff picture for his one-time teammates. If he had squeezed out one more point in the first 48 minutes, Monty Williams’ crew would be spending the next week looking at the Mavs, not Bryant.
Poor Bryant.

Before he hits that game-changing basket, he picks up a $100,000 fine for an “offensive and inexcusable” anti-gay slur aimed at an official in the previous night’s game.

It was Bryant’s 15th technical foul of the season, one short of drawing a one-game suspension.
Now we’ll see what kind of impact, if any, the whistle has on the Lakers legend in his next four games, Sunday and Wednesday in L.A., next Friday and Sunday in the New Orleans Arena.

For Williams’ overachieving team, how an underdog deals with the challenge of standing up to a talented, deeper, pressure-savvy defending champion under playoff conditions will have quite a bit to say about next season’s Hornets.

You look at these playoffs, and you can’t miss noticing two assistants who became rookie head coaches this season, Williams and Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau.


The Hornets decided to go after Thibodeau. When Thibodeau chose the Bulls, Williams was New Orleans-bound.

Just like that. Two assistants, who stepped in preaching defense first.

In a small market, faced with a roster that required a huge makeover, Williams inherited more problems than did Thibodeau.

In the league’s third-largest market, Thibodeau inherited a franchise with a history of six championships, one with a stable roster, but one that had much to prove.

Thibodeau could not have handled a daunting challenge more impressively. Coming off a 41-41 season, the Bulls were picked as the sixth-best team in the Eastern Conference by Sports Illustrated.

When you go from 41 victories to 62-20, to the best record in the East, you become an odds-on Coach-of-the-Year candidate, thanks to a point guard, Derrick Rose, who may wind up as league MVP.
For three head coaches, expectations differ.

In San Antonio, Spurs fans expect Gregg Popovich to defeat the Lakers as they roll to another championship.

In Chicago, Bulls fans expect Tim Thibodeau’s crew to handle LeBron James’ Miami Heat on the way to beating San Antonio, reminding those fans you don’t need Michael Jordan to win another trophy.

In New Orleans, Hornets fans are expecting ... expecting what? Let’s be honest. At this time of the NBA year, Hornets fans were not expecting anything.

Except maybe “wait till next year.”

In a way, next year is here.


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