Hornets are facing a must-win situation

Reporting from New Orleans

The New Orleans Hornets are in a hole, not really a big hole, but a hole nonetheless to the back-to-back NBA champion Lakers.

New Orleans trails the Lakers, 2-1, in the Western Conference best-of-seven first-round playoff series, dropping Friday night's game, 100-86.

Game 4 is Sunday here, a game the Hornets all point to as perhaps the turning point in the series.

They don't want to lose and have to return to Los Angeles, down 3-1, with Game 5 at Staples Center on Tuesday night.

"We understand it's only 2-1 right now," said Chris Paul, who had 22 points, eight assists and five turnovers. "They took home court back, but Sunday is a must-win. We need to win that game."

Lakers-Hornets Game 3 box score

The Hornets never really got a hold of Game 3.

They led just once at 6-4, and then played catch-up the rest of the way, never quite getting there.

They saw the Lakers score 48 points in the paint.

They saw the Lakers get 17 second-chance points.

They saw the Lakers get 14 offensive rebounds.

The Hornets saw the Lakers do so many things that New Orleans wasn't able to overcome.

"The thing that's disappointing is just losing," New Orleans Coach Monty Williams said. "I hate losing. I hate everything about it. It just makes everything bad — food, don't sleep well. Just the fact that we lost, just bothers me."

The Hornets did win Game 1 in Los Angeles.

But that moment has passed, Paul said, and Sunday becomes the next big moment.

"We can't keep dwelling on that game," Paul said. "Every game takes on its own personality."

In Paul's case, the first half and second half of Game 3 took on different personalities.

Paul had 18 first-half points on eight-for-10 shooting.

But he had just four points in the second half on one-for-three shooting.

Paul gave some credit to the Lakers' defense, but he also took some of the blame.

"For me, I blame myself because I don't care if they deny," Paul said. "I can't let them do that. I've got to get my shots. I've got to be a little bit more aggressive and not allow them to take me out."

Okafor sighting

In Games 1 and 2, Hornets center Emeka Okafor was a nonfactor.

He stayed in constant foul trouble, limited to 23 minutes per game and averaging 5.5 points and 3.5 rebounds.

In Game 3, Okafor played 40 minutes 57 seconds.

That was a good start to help him score 15 points and grab eight rebounds.

"I was able to stay out of foul trouble for the most part and get some flow," Okafor said. "I was just trying to put the ball in the bucket."


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