The New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Lakers meet up Sunday night (9:30 p.m. ET, local TV and League Pass) in what looks like a potential first-round preview. The Lakers would be heavily, heavily favored in any playoff series against the Hornets; heck, they'd have been overwhelming favorites before the Hornets lost David West to a torn ACL. Sunday's showdown is only New Orleans' second post-West game; the Hornets beat the Suns on Friday, with Carl Landry starting in West's spot and excelling.
Landry has had success against the Lakers over the years, but the frontcourt matchup seems unfair, frankly. The Lakers, of course, have Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, their big men capable of huge numbers any night, and likely to put up no worse than solid numbers every night. In Emeka Okafor, the Hornets have a solid if undersized (when compared to the Lakers) defender. Landry is a tough interior scorer who can step out. And ... there's Aaron Gray, Jason Smith and David Andersen, three inconsistent, unreliable performers.
The teams each have one incredible guard, Chris Paul for the Hornets and Kobe Bryant for the Lakers. CP3 suffered a concussion three weeks; since getting back on the floor, he's been more aggressive, averaging 21 points and 11 assists a game while shooting 50 percent. The Hornets will need even more with West gone; there simply isn't much offense other than that created by Paul. The Lakers have the opposite issue. When L.A. falls behind, Kobe tends to freak out and take shots away from his big men. (See: the Lakers' loss to Miami, the team's only defeat in its last 15 games.) Kobe has help -- tons of it -- and has to focus on running a deadly team attack. Paul pretty much needs to lead the symphony and play lead French horn at the same time.