Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com Sports Writer
-- Analysis --
NEW ORLEANS ― Hornets coach Monty Williams was greater than Lakers coach Phil Jackson in Game 1.
Jackson was greater than Williams in Game 2.
Will the chess match continue tonight in Game 3 of the Hornets’ opening round playoff series against Los Angeles?
As long as it’s some other form of childhood board game, then yes, according to Williams.
“I’ll play checkers with him but I won’t play chess,” Williams said after the Hornets went through shoot-around at the New Orleans Arena. “I don’t even know all the moves. I know what a pawn can do and that’s about it. That describes me.”
It’s a good metaphor.
For the Hornets to truly have a chance at grabbing a one-game series lead over the two-time defending champions, Williams and his charges can’t get bogged down in the minutiae of the game.
Williams needs to make it simple.
Take care of the ball.
Make free throws.
Get the right guys in the game at the right time.
It’s the difference between Game 1 and Game 2.
The Hornets had only three turnovers, tying an NBA playoff record for fewest giveaways in a postseason game, in the opening 109-100 win.
New Orleans’ bench scored 39 points, including a season-high 12 points from Aaron Gray and 15 points from Jarrett Jack in his playoff debut.
“We were kind of like dogs being let out of a cage in Game 1,” Jack said. “In Game 2, we kind of took a step back, but I think we’ll be ready to get back at it in Game 3.”
Indeed, in the Game 2 87-78 loss, New Orleans turned the ball over 16 times, or three more than their season average.
The Hornets went 20 of 32 from the free-throw line.
The bench came through with only 13 points.
Indeed, with Williams seemingly having figured out how to shut down Lakers forward Pau Gasol, the only true chess move he has to make now is figure out how to keep Chris Paul engaged.
And that’s a move that even as a pawn he’ll have to figure out.