Lakers Vs. Hornets, NBA Playoffs: Chris Paul Must Carry New Orleans Offense

While the Miami Heat are the only team with a top-5 offense and defense, the L.A. Lakers aren't far behind, boasting the NBA's No. 6 offense and No. 6 defense. It's not surprising, because the Lakers have some great two-way players, including Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum. (Ron Artest is often cited as a two-way player, but his offense stinks. Pau Gasol's defense isn't bad, but the Lakers gain most value from him on offense.)

The New Orleans Hornets, who tip off their 2011 NBA Playoffs first round series on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC, are, on the other hand, completely imbalanced. Coach Monty Williams has given New Orleans an identity predicated on defense, which has allowed the Hornets to at times excel and dominate opponents. Unfortunately, it's come at the expense of offense, where the Hornets rank just No. 19 in the league.

New Orleans' defense has actually slipped since David West was replaced by Carl Landry due to injury. But the Hornets continue to do three things really well: force turnovers (No. 6 in NBA), rebound opponent misses (No. 2) and limit fouls (No. 9). The Lakers' offense however, excels at limiting turnovers and offensive rebounding, however, so those will be flashpoints in the series. Can Emeka Okafor keep Bynum and Gasol off the glass? Can Chris Paul force Derek Fisher and Steve Blake into turnovers?

On the other end, the Lakers' excellent shot defense will likely pose serious problems for New Orleans, whose offense goes through long spells of inefficiency. Paul will need to be a major scoring threat for the Hornets to threaten on a game-by-game basis, and that could allow the Lakers to offer special attention his way.

All data from Basketball-Reference.com. Check out our Lakers vs. Hornets hub.

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