Kobe Bryant's Game Two performance against the New Orleans Hornets was very forgettable.
The Lakers' star guard only scored 11 points on three-of-10 shooting, and added only two assists, three rebounds and one steal in the Lakers' victory.
But Bryant responded in Game Three with a big performance, which means his hot shooting could very well continue into Game Four tonight at New Orleans Arena.
Bryant made 10-of-20 shots in Game Three, and added six rebounds, in a game where the Lakers wouldn't let the Hornets stage a comeback after leading for the entire way.
Such a performance by Bryant is typical when he knows the Lakers have their backs against the wall. Many expected Los Angeles would have a first-round sweep, so with the Lakers basically in a must-win situation the rest of the way, another sub-par performance from Bryant would be surprising.
In Game Four, Bryant will be called upon again for more hot shooting.
Phil Jackson's squad received some much needed contributions from Andrew Bynum and Paul Gasol in Game Three. The Lakers' big man tandem were no where near as dominant as many expected them to be in the first two games against an undersized Hornets team.
Should the Lakers lose tonight, allowing the Hornets to even the series up, there will be serious questions as to the Lakers' title expectations.
The Hornets will use their best player, Chris Paul, to exploit the Lakers biggest weakness: point guard defense. Derek Fisher and Steve Blake have had their struggles throughout the season staying in front of fast, athletic guards.
Paul has averaged 25 points in the series, and has shot an outstanding 59.5 percent from the field. Should Paul heat up, the Lakers may be in for a long night.
The Hornets have some good defenders in Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry, who have more than held their own against Gasol, Bynum, and Lamar Odom. Offensively, former Laker Trevor Ariza needs to have a return to his Game Two performance when he went for 22 points to take some of the scoring burden off of Paul.
However, a great deal of the outcome of tonight's game hinges on Bryant. The Hornets don't have a lock-down defender for the Lakers' star, so if Bryant carries over his Game Three performance into Game Four this game might be over before the fourth quarter starts.
PREDICTION: Chris Paul keeps the Hornets in the game for three quarters, but Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol pick up the slack for the Lakers in the fourth.
Lakers win, 99-93.