Monday, April 25, 2011

All things considered, we probably should have seen this coming

Posted By on Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 8:24 AM

Chris Paul celebrates during the Hornets Game 4 vicotry over the Lakers
  • Screengrab taken from NBA.com
  • Chris Paul celebrates during the Hornets Game 4 vicotry over the Lakers

In a season filled with unexpected twists and turns, who were we to say that this wasn't possible?

No, yesterday night's game 4 would not be the last time you got to see the Hornets play live in the New Orleans Arena. Even though mostly every ESPN.com "expert" predicted that this series would be over in, at most, five games.

Yes, the Hornets beat the Lakers for the second time in four games and now their first-round series heads back to Los Angeles with both teams tied at two games apiece.

This is, of course, thanks to the incomparable brilliance that lies within Chris Paul. This is a man that had a triple-double in the third quarter, despite looking like he had just played three or four games before he stepped onto the court. The weight of the Hornets' playoff dreams are heavy and burdensome, and they probably couldn't be resting on a small superstar.

Paul - who finished with 27 points, 15 assists and 13 (THIRTEEN!) rebounds - is already the center of attention after last night's performance; as well he should be considering his performance. But you can't forget the effort put on by Trevor Ariza (19 points) and Carl Landry (16 points) or Jarret Jack's clutch jump-shot under 10 seconds left that essentially sealed the game.

Once more about Ariza, which has been much maligned throughout the season for being not being what you'd expect out of a major off-season acquisition (day-to-day impact and sure-fire performer when you need him) and rather playing like who he is (day-to-day consistent player who can lock down on defense and plays with a chip on his shoulder). After just putting up six points in Game 1, Ariza has scored 22, 12 and 19, all while smothering Kobe Bryant to the best of his ability.

Yes, Kobe has been able to go off at times and is averaging well over 20 points a game in this series. But has he — heck, has any man playing for L.A.? — really turned out the type of dominant performance that made you think there was no way the Hornets could stop them?

There's not question that performances like in games two and three, where the Lakers as a team truly out-performed and out-classed the Hornets' team, will doom New Orleans in this series. But, if only for one night, Chris Paul showed everyone why he is still a forced to be reckoned with and, in a series dominated by men that tower in the seven-foot rage, a man a foot shorter than they can completely alter the course of events in this series.

Chris Paul has once again prove why he is considered one of the league's greatest. Don't fool yourself, most of the credit goes to Monty Williams and his coaching staff for training a much under-manned supporting cast to function as efficiently as possible behind their one genuine superstar. Remember, this is a night that the Hornets won despite Marco Bellineli and the bench combining for 9-of-25 shooting from the floor. The Lakers, despite tonight's scoreline, are still very much the better team in this matchup.

But does that still matter? Yes, the Lakers have out-played the Hornets for vast stretches of this series, but none of that counts towards the ultimate scorecard which states this series is tied at two games apiece.

The Hornets, like they have all season, have reminded us that they are not dead yet. The way Chris Paul is playing, they may not be for much longer than anyone anticipated.

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