The Los Angeles Lakers snuck into the No. 2 seed in the West bracket of the 2011 NBA Playoffs with tight victories over the San Antonio Spurs' JV squad and the lowly Sacramento Kings in possibly the final game in Sacramento. Their reward is a date with the No. 7 seed New Orleans Hornets, who appear to be the weakest team in the West on paper. Still, as long as they have Chris Paul, they have a chance, even if David West is injured.
Very slim. The Hornets are shorthanded without West, and the Lakers' stifling strong-side zone defense should be able to corral Paul enough to win. Now that Andrew Bynum is going to be healthy for the playoffs, the Lakers' size should overwhelm an undersized Hornets frontcourt. Paul is the Hornets' only trump card, and even he has a lot to prove after struggling the last time the Hornets made the playoffs.
This is a big series for Carl Landry. The Hornets' forward went from being tremendously underrated to very overrated after a tough spell with the Kings. A trade to New Orleans, combined with West's injury, gives Landry an opportunity to show off his toughness in the paint.
As for the Lakers, Bynum, if healthy, should dominate this series going against the undersized Emeka Okafor.
HINTS FOR THE FUTURE
The Lakers should easily beat the Hornets ... and that could be a problem. We all know the Lakers' propensity for playing down to the level of their competition. Last year, they were able to avoid that problem because they got a major test from Oklahoma City. That series woke the Lakers up and allowed them to maintain the right intensity going forward. The Hornets, though, don't provide the same kind of threat. Can the Lakers get their game in order despite that? If not, it's a bad sign for the future.
As for the Hornets, we all know the Chris Paul watch will be ongoing once they inevitably lose this series.
MAINSTREAM MEME ALERT
Lakers in five, giving away one game while rolling in the other four.