Lakers, and Pau Gasol, are knocked flat by Hornets in Game 1, 109-100
Long after the Lakers finished fumbling their playoff opener, Pau Gasol stayed on a table in the trainer’s room, flat on his back, eyes closed.
There was plenty to ponder.
He picked a bad time to be more white swan than black swan, to steal Kobe Bryant’s comparison earlier this season.
Gasol was outscored by Aaron Gray, outhustled by Carl Landry and reminded to take better care of his on-court business after the Lakers’ stunning 109-100 loss Sunday to New Orleans.
“It’s one and two, it’s me and him,” Bryant said. “We get all the praise when things go our way and you get all the blame when things don’t. It’s part of the seats we sit in.”
Gasol’s Game 1 seat was the equivalent of a rickety, weather-beaten rattan.
He finished with eight points, six rebounds, a bloody cut under his left eye and some even nastier comments from incredulous Lakers fans as the clock wound down at Staples Center.
“Way to go Gasol. Nice game buddy,” yelled one.
“Six points? Come on Gasol. Seriously,” yelled another before Gasol scored a late basket to finish two for nine from the field.
And that was without David West, the Hornets’ two-time All-Star power forward, done for the season because of a torn knee ligament.
The Lakers had been dreadful in afternoon games at Staples Center, 0-4 before Sunday, which is why Coach Phil Jackson told players to show up to the arena an hour earlier than usual.
Gasol, however, arrived 25 minutes after the designated time. That’s a no-no.
It’s been a rough few weeks for Gasol, who was called soft by Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins in a magazine interview and then felt Amare Stoudemire piling on with similar comments at a promotional appearance.
Much will be expected of him when the best-of-seven series resumes Wednesday at Staples Center.
“I’m disappointed, stunned, surprised, but we were the ones responsible for that to happen,” Gasol said. “I’ve just got to make myself available whether the ball is coming or not. I’ve just got to be there and get myself active and don’t get discouraged whatsoever if the ball is not coming.”
Bryant had 34 points on 13-for-26 shooting despite sustaining an injury of his own — a bruised neck after falling into the front row and banging into the metal underside of a seat cushion.
Gasol also had a minor injury thanks to ex-teammate DJ Mbenga’s foul, but reporters didn’t center on the bandage under his eye.
The more pressing damage was actually a lack of it — Gasol had no offensive rebounds in almost 38 minutes.
“That’s something that I don’t like at all,” he said.
The cumbersome Gray had 12 points on five-for-five shooting, and Landry, a trade deadline pickup, scored 17 points as the Hornets crushed the Lakers in the paint, 52-34.
Chris Paul gleefully put up 33 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds and four steals with only two turnovers. The Hornets were almost flawless, tying an NBA playoff record by turning over the ball only three times.
Welcome to the Lakers’ 2010-11 season, where what should be easy is almost always difficult.
The Lakers won all four regular-season games against New Orleans by an average of 10.8 points. The Hornets didn’t care.
“I’m glad our guys came to fight — that was the mantra for the week,” New Orleans Coach Monty Williams said. “We said that we had to be strong and courageous no matter what the situation. You’re playing against the defending champions . . . what they’ve done over the years, we can’t match that with anything else but fight. And so we got a big win.”
The Lakers were 11-1 at home in last season’s playoffs. They’ve already matched it in the loss column.
They couldn’t blame fatigue. They hadn’t played since Wednesday.
They couldn’t blame injuries. Unlike San Antonio, which was surprised by Memphis earlier Sunday without Manu Ginobili, all the Lakers’ top players played.
Andrew Bynum had 13 points and nine rebounds, but Jackson seemed to want more shots from him than seven.
“We didn’t get the ball inside, which is one of our strengths,” Jackson said.
The Lakers’ reserves have been a weakness, and they were outscored, 39-21. Their one reliable player these days, Lamar Odom, took only one rebound in almost 31 minutes.
It had been 15 years since the Lakers lost a playoff opener at home. Fans reacted accordingly as the game slipped away, heading for the exits and trying to salvage a beautiful day outside.
The Lakers were stuck with what happened indoors. They have some salvaging of their own to undertake.
Get our high school sports newsletter
Prep Rally is devoted to the SoCal high school sports experience, bringing you scores, stories and a behind-the-scenes look at what makes prep sports so popular.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.