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Chris Paul looks merely mortal in Game 6

Guard who carried the Hornets in first five games of playoff series with Lakers finishes with 10 points and compliments Derek Fisher's defense.

April 28, 2011|By Chris Dufresne
  • Lakers power forward Pau Gasol tries to draw a charge against New Orleans point guard Chris Paul during Game 6 on Thursday night.
Lakers power forward Pau Gasol tries to draw a charge against New Orleans… (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from New Orleans

Numbers must lie, because New Orleans Hornets star Chris Paul nearly had his second triple-double of the series Thursday night.

What game was the final stat sheet watching?

Paul finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists in his team's 98-80, season-ending Game 6 loss to the Lakers at New Orleans Arena.

His triple-double in Game 4 was considered one of the great feats in NBA history. He became the only player other than Oscar Robertson with at least 25 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds in a playoff game.

Paul's near-triple on Thursday was more comparable to Oscar Mayer.

Paul had been terrifyingly terrific through five games, the player single-handedly responsible for the Hornets' extending the Lakers beyond an expected four-game sweep.

On Thursday, Paul was almost invisible. He attempted only two first-half shots and made his best moves when they counted the least.

Paul gave the Lakers credit for shutting down his driving lanes and praised, in particular, a veteran who doesn't often get praised for slowing opposing point guards.

"I think a lot of the credit goes to Derek Fisher," Paul said of the Lakers guard. "I told him after the game, it was unbelievable defense he played the entire series."

Kobe Bryant, though, was probably more accurate in assessing what happened to Paul.

"We didn't do anything," Bryant said. "He was tired."

Paul did appear pooped.

It didn't help that he picked up an early offensive foul and that the Hornets shot 42.9% and made only three of 14 three-point attempts.

"To ask Chris to bail us out of a game like that is unfair," New Orleans Coach Monty Williams said.

Paul entered the game averaging 24.4 points, 11.6 assists and 6.4 rebounds in the series.

Thursday, he scored six of his 10 points after the game was a lost cause. He seemed out of sync and out of sorts.

With 5 minutes 23 seconds left, Paul made a catlike drive that led to a basket, foul and three-point play.

And all it did was cut the Lakers' lead to 18.

He then swished a three-pointer with 4:03 left.

And that trimmed the deficit to 17.

Give the Lakers some credit: Unlike in the first five games, they didn't look like defensive lampposts. The 7-foot size of Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol also had impact — but it wasn't as if those guys grew in two days.

"D-Fish gets up on one side of you and while you can drive by you have the Twin Towers standing down there in the middle of the lane waiting on you," Paul said. "I still tried to find my spots, the lane was packed. And D-Fish was in my pocket all night long."

New Orleans wasn't supposed to last six games against the Lakers playing without injured star David West, the team's leading scorer.

"We played with what we had," Paul said. "D-West was our leading scorer. He wasn't there. We're a no-excuse team, but he's a big part of our team."

Paul, in the end, wasn't interested in how hard the Hornets made the Lakers work.

"It's not about extending them to six games, or pushing them," Paul said, "We played to win. … I don't know how they evolved or if they got better or anything like that. It came down to making plays."

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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