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Monday, April 18, 2011
Surprise factor Aaron Gray feeling better

By J.A. Adande

LOS ANGELES -- Aaron Gray couldn’t reveal how far from 100 percent his sprained right ankle feels because “I’m never good with numbers”, so the best he could do was describe it as “Sore. Much better than yesterday.”

Among the unexpected developments in the playoffs is the sudden interest in the Gray’s ankle. These are the kinds of shifts that occur when the New Orleans Hornets take the opening game from the Los Angeles Lakers and Gray outscores Pau Gasol, 12-8, before Gray’s right ankle bent at a 45-degree angle in a visual that even Gray found “kind of nasty” when he saw a replay on “SportsCenter.”

Gray spent Monday’s practice reclining on a trainer’s table, his ankle elevated and iced. Then he strapped on a walking boot. The Hornets are calling his availability “day to day” and are grateful that the series doesn’t resume until Wednesday.

“We’ve got a couple days, so we’ll see,” Hornets coach Monty Williams said.

Williams said the Hornets need more big men, not fewer, since the Lakers “start out with 14 feet” in the form of Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The Hornets are already without power forward David West (torn anterior cruciate ligament), and starting center Emeka Okafor played only 22 minutes in Game 1 because of foul trouble. But Gray and Carl Landry (West’s replacement in the starting lineup) held things down in the frontcourt, while Chris Paul dominated the game from the point guard spot.

Paul was able to make the Lakers’ height work against them whenever Gasol switched onto to him off screen-and-rolls. Gasol was at Paul’s mercy, with his face at one point registering a look of helplessness as Paul froze him with a shake move and hit a jumper over him.

Paul also helped Gray, repeatedly zipping the ball into Gray’s hands the instant he was open inside, before the Laker defense had a chance to recover. Paul assisted on four of Gray’s five baskets (or, if you prefer, Gray provided Paul with four of his 14 assists).

The Hornets shot 52 percent and turned the ball over only three times, efficient numbers that will be hard to maintain throughout the series.

“One game,” Paul said. “That’s all it is.”

The most surprising outcome so far in the playoffs. That’s what it was.