By Scott Spangler

The New Orleans Hornets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 109-100 Sunday to take Game 1 of their first round series. Much could be attributed to the play of Hornets center Aaron Gray off the bench. Twenty minutes, 5 for 5 from the floor, and more than holding his own against that Laker front line.

Few plays bigger than Gray’s righty floater in the lane halfway through the fourth quarter. This following a dunk follow by Lakers guard Shannon Brown to cut the New Orleans lead to three.

Gray was later helped off the floor by teammates after what looked to be a pretty nasty ankle injury. Hard to believe it, but the condition of this particular ankle could be key to how this series goes from here. Yes, the ankle belonging to Aaron Gray.

Until the final 10 minutes, Kobe was doing all the heavy lifting for L.A. Then it was Ron Artest getting in on the act, hitting the offensive glass hard and coming away with a loose ball or two.

Once Hornets coach Monty Williams decided to go back to the three-guard lineup at the 8-minute mark of the fourth, the Lakers went after whichever Hornet guard found himself pinned down behind Artest. First Jarret Jack, then Willie Green.

L.A. did not get the production they have come to expect from guys named Bynum and Gasol. Certainly to be talking points for Phil Jackson and perhaps Kobe Bryant.

The story today would be Chris Paul. His final stat line (33 pt, 14 asst, 7 reb, 4 stl) doesn’t really do the performance justice. For every Kobe answer late in Game 1, Paul had one more.

New Orleans guards accounted for 66 of the team’s 109 total points, and knocked down 64 percent from the floor off 45 attempts.

Derrick Fisher is often criticized about his defense. He does seem to have his share of troubles with smaller guards who can score the ball. Hard for me to put all of this at Fisher’s feet. This looked like one of those days for Chris Paul. He had it all working.

This leads me to believe we see more Kobe matching up with CP3 going forward. Phil won’t say as much, and it wouldn’t be an exclusive thing, but in spots I would expect this sort of adjustment.

I still feel L.A. takes this series. They will find that gear, I believe. But after one game in a best-of-seven, the Hornets do have their attention.