Lakers Look to Length in New Orleans

On Dec. 28 in New Orleans, the Lakers used their length to great effect in Andrew Bynum’s first start of the season, using a 33-18 margin in the second half to cruise to a 103-88 victory.

Bynum was too much to handle on the block for Hornets center Emeka Okafor, who conceded 18 points on 8-of-12 field goals to one of L.A.’s two 7-footers, while Lamar Odom came off the bench for 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Bynum and Odom added 17 more points apiece in another Lakers win a week later, with Pau Gasol adding 21 as New Orleans again struggled with L.A.’s length.

On Saturday evening in the Big Easy, the size disadvantage will be even worse for the Hornets, as Okafor will miss his third straight game with a strained left oblique, not to mention former Laker Trevor Ariza being out with a sprained right ankle. Compounding the loss of 40 percent of their starting line up, point guard Chris Paul — still arguably the league’s best, though we should include Deron Williams and now Derrick Rose in the conversation — rolled his ankle in N.O.’s last game, a 104-93 loss to the Thunder.

The injuries leave a front line combo of Jason Smith and David West to go against Bynum and Gasol. Smith, who’s listed at 7-feet but is really more of a perimeter based big who can knock down face-up jumpers, which also happens to be the strength of West’s game. So while the Hornets will be a small team, they still don’t get out and run much, as shown by their failure to score 100 points in three of their last four games, three of which were losses (at Sacramento, at Phoenix, at Oklahoma City).

New Orleans has been particularly good at home of late, however, winning six straight in New Orleans including an impressive 96-72 victory over the league-leading San Antonio Spurs. And they do it in part with defense, holding teams to an average of 92 points per game, the second fewest in the NBA. The Lakers expect to see some zone to try and slow down their bigs, while the Hornets will surely try and spread LAL out at the defensive end with the shooting range of their bigs, including backup David Andersen and his three-point shooting range.

Tipoff is at 5 p.m. Pacific.