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Lakers look for ways to improve their spotty play against Hornets

Focus in practice, and two-hour video session, is on defense, specifically how to slow point guard Chris Paul. Steve Blake, who missed Game 1 loss with chickenpox, returns for Lakers, which may help.

April 18, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers guard Kobe Bryant struggles to cover Hornets point guard Chris Paul during Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs on Sunday at Staples Center.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant struggles to cover Hornets point guard Chris Paul… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

Steve Blake will play in Game 2. So will the Lakers, presumably.

They're certainly studying enough, spending two hours in video review Monday and enduring enough stops and starts at the hands of Coach Phil Jackson to cause a headache.

"We went over everything, pretty much," Andrew Bynum said.

The Lakers needed to after their 109-100 loss to New Orleans in the playoff opener.

Whittling away the Lakers' comfort margin in the playoffs

Chris Paul ripped apart their defense, Pau Gasol imploded on offense and their overall play was no better than "speckled," as Jackson called Blake's appearance a few days ago.

Blake is over his bout with chickenpox and can only help the Lakers' effort Wednesday to stop Paul, who had 33 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds and a brush with history in Game 1.

It was the fifth time in 3,272 previous playoff games that anybody had as many points, assists and rebounds. Oscar Robertson did it twice, Magic Johnson and Walt Frazier each did it once . . . and it had never happened on the road until Sunday, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Hornets' Carl Landry has big-game presence

The Lakers tried to funnel Paul toward the sideline, desperately trying to seal off the paint, a process Jackson referred to as "umbrella-ing."

To ensure they don't get poured on again, steps are being taken defensively. In Game 1 the Lakers' big men were stuck on Paul eight times after bad defensive switches, including twice in the fourth quarter when Paul drilled jumpers over Gasol near the top of the key.

The coaches' message to the players Monday: stop switching on defense. Don't be lazy. Stay with your man.

Lakers database: All things Lakers

And if Paul squeezes into the key, Bynum and Gasol need to stop getting walled off from him by the Hornets' big men.

"We can't let [Paul] have a lot of space to just dictate and decide what he wants to do," Bynum said. "I think [Jackson] is trying to put a lot of onus on me and Pau to kind of step up and do a bit better job physically with the way we're playing defense. Paul was getting free runs at the basket, three or four layups."

As much fretting as the Lakers are doing about Paul, there's very little about Gasol.

"He's an All-Star player," Jackson said, quashing the concept of Gasol struggling again in Game 2. "He's pretty good."

Gasol had eight points, made two of nine shots and took only six rebounds, none at the offensive end, in the opener. Neither he nor Kobe Bryant spoke to reporters Monday.

"There isn't a player in the world who plays a sport that hasn't had a bad game," Lamar Odom said in defense of Gasol.

For all their past triumphs, 16 NBA championships and 31 Western Conference titles, the Lakers have a shaky 3-9 series record when losing Game 1 of the opening round.

Not that they're worried.

"It's not the end of the world," Jackson said calmly. "Teams have good days and bad days. We probably had a bad day and they had a good day. Now we have to meet their energy."

Blake's back

After their video session finally ended, the Lakers opened their doors to reveal Blake practicing on the court.

He had some marks on his cheek and neck area but was no longer contagious and expected to resume his regular workload in Game 2.

"Basketball-wise, I felt a lot better than I thought I would after lying in bed for seven days," he said. "I got a little tired and sat out a couple plays here and there."

Blake, averaging four points and 20 minutes a game, still isn't sure how he contracted an illness normally reserved for children. "It's not like I went up and shook someone's hand who had spots all over them," he said.

Reserve guard Trey Johnson, signed last week out of the Development League, will stay with the Lakers the rest of the season.

More Hornets marks

Not only did Paul have a historic Game 1, but the Hornets tied the playoff record for fewest turnovers (three) and became only the third team in 20 years to have such an accurate playoff effort from their reserves.

Led by Aaron Gray (five for five) and Jarrett Jack (five for six), the Hornets' reserves made 16 of 22 shots (72.7%).

Among playoff teams whose backups took 15 or more shots, only Milwaukee (75% against Detroit, 2006) and Phoenix (74% against the Lakers, 2006) had better efficiency since 1991.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

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