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Lakers hope to get off the ground in Game 3 against Hornets

As the first-round series shifts to New Orleans, the Lakers, especially Pau Gasol, took to increase their level of play.

April 21, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Lakers forward Pau Gasol will be looking to make more of an impact in Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals after struggling in the first two games against the Hornets.
Lakers forward Pau Gasol will be looking to make more of an impact in Game… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Even on days they're not playing, nothing's easy for the Lakers right now.

They cut practice short and hustled from their El Segundo training facility to Los Angeles International Airport on Thursday, hoping to get their charter flight off the ground and pointed toward New Orleans before air space became log-jammed as a result of President Obama's arrival.

The Lakers were successful in their flight plan, and their followers are hoping for more in an all-even first-round playoff series that resumes Friday in New Orleans.

But the Lakers hope to take only some elements from Game 2 to Game 3.

Lakers coaches looking for maximum effort in Game 3 against New Orleans

Pau Gasol was somehow poorer in Game 2 (eight points, five rebounds) than in Game 1 (eight points, six rebounds) and has made only four of 19 shots (21%) in the best-of-seven series.

It took a little while to find the last back-to-back games in which Gasol had single-digit scoring, but they were in March 2005, an eight-point effort against Chicago and nine points against New Orleans (of course).

He looked awkward Wednesday in Game 2 against the Hornets, hoisting up off-balance shots and getting bodied out of the post by Carl Landry.

"He'll be fine," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said Thursday, chuckling. "He had some traffic issues [down low]."

It makes no sense that Gasol is struggling so much against the smaller Hornets.

He averaged 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds while shooting 70.5% against them in the regular season, the Lakers sweeping all four games. Hornets forward David West played in three of them, compounding the confusion for Gasol's issues this series.

West is out with a knee injury, and that means Gasol's stats should head north, not south.

Kobe Bryant also had an unusual Game 2, acting primarily as a distributor and scoring 11 points on three-for-10 shooting, barely keeping alive a double-digit playoff scoring streak dating to 2000.

"He told me [Thursday], don't worry, he's going to take more than 10 shots the next game," Jackson said wryly.

Jackson liked Bryant's defense on Chris Paul, acknowledging it drained Bryant's energy but "made us feisty."

The Lakers held the Hornets to 39.1% shooting, and Paul had a manageable 20 points and nine assists. Maybe putting Bryant on Paul was the strategic move of the series.

"We consulted the astrologists and the tarot-card people and that's how we came up with it," Jackson said.

Neither Bryant nor Gasol spoke to reporters Thursday, but the Lakers' most consistent presence this series was available to talk briefly.

Ron Artest is averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds, his scoring a stark improvement from the career-low 8.5 points he averaged in the regular season.

He has felt rejuvenated since decreasing his shooting exercises and off-court conditioning after the All-Star break.

"I used to be in the gym a lot," Artest said. "I can't do it now. You can't be here shooting and wasting your legs."

Jackson has often chided Artest for working out too much, especially after some games in which he would ride an exercise bike for almost 30 minutes.

Now Jackson is thankful he's contributing.

"He's filling the gaps," he said. "We've got guys that aren't playing up to their level and he's filling in where we need to have some guys fill in with scoring."

Lamar Odom was the last of the Lakers to get to LAX on Thursday, creating just enough time for a quick head shave from his longtime barber in a side room at the training facility.

"What time is it?" Odom asked a reporter, peeking to the side as a straight-edge razor curved along his scalp.

He heard the answer, a few minutes before 1 p.m., and bolted out the door a minute later.

The Lakers then headed southeast, for what they hoped would be the only time this series.

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

twitter.com/Mike_Bresnahan

Times correspondent Mark Medina contributed to this report.

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