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NBA PLAYOFFS

How the Lakers and New Orleans Hornets match up

The Lakers rate an edge in almost every category, at least on paper, in the best-of-seven first-round series that begins Sunday at Staples Center.

April 16, 2011|By Broderick Turner
  • New Orleans point guard Chris Paul brings the ball up court against the Lakers during a 102-84 loss at Staples Center.
New Orleans point guard Chris Paul brings the ball up court against the Lakers… (Kirby Lee / US Presswire )

Starting guards

The Lakers have championship veterans Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher in the backcourt facing New Orleans' All-Star point guard Chris Paul and Marco Belinelli.

Bryant remains one of the best players in the NBA and Fisher has always been a clutch shot-maker in the playoffs. The two of them have been together for all but three seasons in their 15-year NBA careers. They have been on five championship teams together and have seen it all. Both lead in different ways, Fisher more cerebral and Bryant more of a browbeater.

Paul is as competitive and as tough as any player in the NBA. He's not quite as explosive as he used to be after having left knee surgery 14 months ago, but Paul is crafty and still is considered one of the best point guards in the league. Belinelli is a good shooter, but he's not a very good defender.

Edge: Lakers

Starting forwards

Pau Gasol and Ron Artest go up against former Laker Trevor Ariza and Carl Landry.

Gasol is a skilled player who has become one of the top power forwards in the NBA. He has dealt with opponents' calling him "soft" by just playing his game, and at times by being a force for the Lakers. Artest always gets up for big-time small forwards like Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. So it'll be interesting to see how engaged he will be playing against Ariza.

Ariza won an NBA championship with the Lakers in 2009 and is a great athlete. Landry was acquired from the Sacramento Kings. He became the starter at power forward when David West went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Edge: Lakers

Starting centers

Lakers 7-footer Andrew Bynum has the size advantage over 6-10 Emeka Okafor of the Hornets.

Bynum has a bone bruise in his right knee. The Lakers just want him to be a force on the backboards and on defense.

Okafor is a solid center; defense and rebounding are his strengths.

Edge: Lakers

Benches

The Lakers have a clear advantage here because of Lamar Odom, the leading candidate to be the sixth man of the year. Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake round out a good Lakers bench, though Blake could miss at least Game 1 because of chickenpox.

The Hornets aren't that bad, either, with Jarrett Jack, Willie Green and Aaron Gray in reserve.

Edge: Lakers

Offense

The Lakers run the triangle offense. But they are at their best when they go inside to 7-footers Gasol and Bynum.

The Hornets run a lot of pick-and-roll plays with Paul, who controls the game for them.

Edge: Even

Defense/rebounding

The Lakers were ranked eighth in the NBA in fewest points allowed, the Hornets fifth.

The Lakers were third in rebounds per game, the Hornets tied for 24th.

Edge: Lakers

Coaching

Well, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson has won 11 NBA championships, the most in league history. New Orleans' Monty Williams is a first-year NBA coach.

Edge: Lakers

Prediction

Lakers in five.

broderick.turner@latimes.com

twitter.com/BA_Turner

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