Lakers guard Kobe Bryant cuts off the drive of New Orleans point guard Chris… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from New Orleans
The goal for the Lakers is to push the New Orleans Hornets to the brink of elimination in the Western Conference first-round playoff series.
The goal for the Hornets is to pull even with the Lakers in the best-of-seven series.
They are two teams with the same goal, which is to win Game 4 on Sunday night at New Orleans Arena.
Only one of them will accomplish that goal.
"Sunday's game is the most important game of the series — for both teams," Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons said after practice Saturday. "We want to make them think there is no way in the world you are going to beat us three times in a row. And we need to win tomorrow to send the message, 'yeah, you're coming to L.A., but we are going to close this thing out.' "
The Lakers have a 2-1 lead in the series, snatching the home-court advantage back after losing Game 1 at home.
The Hornets seek to win the fourth game and tie the series at 2-2.
If New Orleans can't, the Hornets would return to Staples Center for Tuesday night's game down, 3-1, and would be one loss away from their season being over.
"In my opinion, if we win Sunday, it just gives us momentum back," Hornets Coach Monty Williams said. "And that's what I'm trying to get across to our guys. We're close. Don't look at the numbers. Don't look at what everybody else is saying … If you win Sunday, everything changes."
Cleamons, who is in charge of putting the game plan together for the Lakers, outlined a few things for his team to be successful.
Limiting mistakes on defense; corralling Chris Paul
Cleamons said the Hornets use screen-and-rolls to initiate the offense, during the offense and at the end of the offense. New Orleans might use up to four screen-and-rolls in one sequence.
"Chris is always going to be a challenge," Cleamons said. "And the amount of screen-and-rolls that they give him, you're going to have mistakes. We have to be prepared for a screen-and-roll almost every possession."
Better ball movement on offense
Cleamons wants the Lakers to move the basketball from one side of the court to the other.
He wants the ball to go inside to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol and then back outside. He wants his other players to cut and move without the basketball.
"If we can remember those actions and the positives about three or four guys getting the ball without dribbling — just catching it, passing, looking — if we can put that in the memory bank, we'd be golden," Cleamons said.
Williams wants his team to rebound better and get stops on defense.
The Hornets have been outrebounded in all three games. They have allowed the Lakers to average 10.6 offensive rebounds per game in the series.
"That's our adjustment," Williams said. "When we get rebounds and stops like we did in Game 1, it's easier for us."