At times, it appeared that Game 2 of the Lakers-Hornets series had devolved into a game of pinball. Bodies were flying everywhere, with hard screen after hard screen and plenty of contact in the lane.
Welcome to playoff basketball.
With the usual smile that accompanies the “why do I have to do this?” thought bubble, Phil Jackson compared the game to “mud wrestling” in his interview with Cheryl Miller. I particularly enjoyed the one-word “No” answer when asked if Pau Gasol had been more aggressive in Game 2.
The Lakers did a fantastic job in closing out and bodying Chris Paul and, his two buzzer-beaters excepted, he was held in check. Paul converted 5-of-11 shots from the field and 8-of-12 from the free throw line (20 points).
The true story of the game is right in the box score.
Gasol was less than stellar on the block and lacked the aggressiveness that Jackson was seeking. He continually backed out and turned to the fade-away shot or looked to pass it back to the perimeter. One play that stood out occurred as the clock was winding down. Instead of going up for a layup or dunk following a rebound, he kicked the ball back out. Perhaps it was wise to wind clock, but a quick flush might have at least helped to curb the chatter about his Game 2 effort. Instead, he finished 2-of-10 with four free throw conversions and five rebounds (eight points).
Kobe Bryant struggled as well. He attempted only 10 shots, converting three, and finished the game with 11 points.
That’s right. Gasol and Bryant combined to shoot 25% and the Lakers still registered a nine-point victory.
Andrew Bynum played like a man, throwing his weight around in the low-post, and putting forth a big effort on both ends of the floor. He finished the game with 17 points and 11 boards.
He was complemented well by Ron Artest, who added 15 points (6-of-14) and Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, who scored 16 points and added seven rebounds. Those who were quick to dismiss Odom in this playoff run because of his reality show and his in-laws can pipe down, if only for a day.
With Bryant and Gasol struggling, the secondary options needed to step up. They delivered.
The series moves to New Orleans tied 1-1. Remember to wear your unitard.