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Los Angeles Lakers-New Orleans Hornets recap

Jordan Hill had a career night against the New Orleans Pelicans

Jordan Hill had a career night against the New Orleans Pelicans

Finally. Last night marked the first time this week I didn’t turn off a Lakers game before halftime. It was almost as if Coach Mike D’Antoni read our blog and followed some of the suggestions I made and voila! Victory. I should be D’Antoni’s right-hand man. Nick Youngwould be the first to go..

The Los Angeles Lakers completely annihilated the New Orleans Pelicans last night in a 116-95 blowout that seemed larger than the actual score. The Lakers paid the Pelicans back thoroughly after their embarrassing loss in New Orleans last week. D’Antoni put in a new starting line-up and the Lakers responded with increased defensive effort and a highly efficient offense.

Per my recommendations, Jordan Hill was inserted into the starting line-up after logging only an average of 17 minutes per game. He responded by putting up a career high of 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in 26 minutes. Hill was excellent throughout the entire game, making timely cuts and adding a level of intensity that the Lakers haven’t seen all year. He could have had 26 or 27 points if he didn’t miss some easy gimme’s near the rim. The 6-10 forward from South Carolina was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end, altering shots with his presence in the paint and forcing Pelicans star Anthony Davis into early foul trouble, a key reason for New Orleans’ offensive woes throughout the match. As icing on the cake, Hill, who is shooting 52% from the charity stripe this year, knocked down 7 of his 8 free throw attempts. It’s clear that Hill should be an unquestioned starter for the purple and gold. Hill wasn’t the only positive for the Lakers Tuesday night, here are some of the others:

- Balanced Team Play: Nine different Lakers played at least 20 minutes against the Pelicans, a sure sign of trust in his personnel by D’Antoni. The Lakers played unselfish basketball, making the extra pass and hitting the open man consistently. How do I know this? The Lakers shot close to 56% for the night, a huge improvement for a team that averages a shooting percentage in the low 40s. There is no way they could have shot that well if they didn’t pass the ball and get good looks at the basket. They accrued 33 assists to the Pelican’s 22, and as my Dad used to tell me, it’s the intangibles that win games.

- Running a half-court set: I also mentioned in my previous articles that the Lakers need to slow the game down to match the needs of Pau Gasol. They did that by running half-court sets that allowed the big man to get free for short jumpers or isolated for one-on-one match-ups in the post. The Spaniard ended up with 14 points on 6-10 shooting, a much needed boost of confidence considering Gasol is shooting 38% from the field on the year. The half-court set also brought to light the emergence of Steve Blake, the new John Stockton, in the pick-and-roll game. The Lakers have been trying to force the ball down the court so fast, that there haven’t been many chances for Blake to play to one of his strengths as a passer. Blake and Hill ran the pick-and-roll to perfection a number of times last night, a trend that has to continue if the Lakers hope to end with a winning record this year.

- Bench Play. While saying anything positive about Nick Young makes me physically sick, he put in a decent-enough stat line, scoring 17 points on 7 of 11 shooting. He didn’t force his shot as much as he used to, but he didn’t really do anything else but score. He recorded just one assist, with no rebounds, steals or blocks in 23 minutes of play. D’Antoni had him come off the bench and I think this is a role that would prove beneficial to both Young and the Lakers. It takes some of the pressure of Young to score as a starter and allows him to be the focal point of the second unit. Chris “The Kamanator” Kaman also played well, grabbing nine boards and dishing out six assists. I was skeptical about Kaman at the beginning of this season, but he’s turned out pretty well. He doesn’t shoot a lot, and sticks to his strengths of posting up and taking short jumpers. He’s also been solid on the boards and plays decent enough defense, one of the major concerns I had with him coming into the season. Jordan Farmar put up a quiet 9 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds, solidifying his role as a stabilizer in the second unit.

If they can keep this up, they should do well enough to make the playoffs, but the postseason is a long ways away and the Lakers have a tough schedule to keep up with. In any case, I”ll leave you with this YouTube clip of Xavier Henry welcoming rookie Jeff Withey to the Lakers’ spa with a monster facial.

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