Lakers can close it out — and can expect Hornets to put up a fight

Win Game 6 on Thursday night in New Orleans, or return home for Game 7 at Staples Center on Saturday night.

That's what the Lakers are up against.

The Lakers know they can close out the stubborn New Orleans Hornets with a victory and advance to the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

But if the Lakers lose the game in the best-of-seven series they lead, 3-2, Los Angeles will have to face the Hornets in a winner-take-all final game.

"They are not going to go away easy," Lakers assistant coach Jim Cleamons said. "We have to realize that Thursday night is going to be once again a virtual dogfight because they've got nothing to lose. Their backs are against the wall. They are in the corner and they are going to give us their best effort."

Cleamons said he expects Hornets Coach Monty Williams to challenge his team like he did in Game 4, to push New Orleans to "fight as if it is the most important game of their lives and careers."

The Hornets don't lack for confidence.

In fact, Hornets All-Star guard Chris Paul said his team's confidence is "still high."

"The great thing is that we get to go back to our home court with our fans behinds us," Paul said after Tuesday night's game. "We've got to bring energy.

"It's an elimination game now. We can't leave anything out there. It's like they always say: Win or go home. We don't have another game to fall back on. … We're going to come out Game 6, guns blazing. I can't wait."

Cleamons, in charge of putting the game plan together against the Hornets in this series, has outlined a few things for the Lakers to accomplish.

Duplicate Game 5 energy

After giving up 32 points and allowing the Hornets to shoot 81.3% in the first quarter, the Lakers' energized defense held New Orleans to 58 total points the next three quarters.

"We have room for improvement, don't get me wrong," Cleamons said. "But our energy has to stay consistent."

Work offense inside-out

That means getting the ball down low to Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom.

Then Cleamons wants the ball to go outside to the shooters.

"We have to be more acutely aware of how we score, what's working for us and don't forget," Cleamons said. "Put it in your memory bank and execute certain portions of the offense."

Dealing with Chris Paul

That has been the constant in the series, trying to slow down Paul. Cleamons said they want to make Paul work.

"We can't get discouraged when they do something positive for their team," Cleamons said.

As for the Hornets, look for Paul to be even more aggressive offensively and for the team to be physical.

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