Thursday, May 8, 2008

West Semis, Game 2: Messing with Texas

My buddy Ted -- an avid Mavs fan -- sent me the following message after the last game (NOH 102, SAS 84)...


Ingredients: Floundering basketball team in the best division in the NBA, disloyal owner, disinterested fan base, economically crippled city, Curry Smith, Lee Domingue (Section 325).

Directions: Just add Hall-of-Fame-Caliber point guard

I hate you."

Despite the jealousy he throws in there at the end, I like it. Honestly, it's a good analogy. The Hornets' offense is similar to a recipe. I won't do some hokey post that includes phrases like "17 parts David West" or "4 parts Julian Wright's headband." I will, however, write the following...

In recent memory, we've seen it in almost every game. The Hornets stay close or post a small lead at halftime. Then, they come out in the second half like men possessed. The team takes away opponents' rhythms like they're Vanilla Ice ripping off the beat from a David Bowie-Freddie Mercury song. The Hornets' defense leads to their offense; steals, blocks, and rebounds often immediately precede a Peja 3, a Tyson dunk, or a D-West mid-range jumper. It's more or less the same formula they've used for the entire season. It's not exact, but you know what to expect. It's also just one more reason that I think Chris Paul's nickname NEEDS to be "The Chef." The great thing is... most opponents are unable to stop it. Case in point: the Spurs on Monday night.

At halftime, the Hornets were down 42-43. Pretty familiar territory (they were down 44-49 at the break of Game 1). After a 19-point loss on Saturday, everyone expected the Spurs to bounce back to their defending championship form. Specifically, people looked for Tim Duncan to vastly improve upon his Game 1 performance. And he did; by halftime, he had exceeded his point and rebound totals from the first game. But the Hornets turned it on. They limited Timmy to only one field goal in the second half and outscored the big guy's team 60-41 in the same span.

While he was trying to get himself back to form offensively, Duncan and the rest of his frontline were doing a much better job defensively against David West (2-11 shooting for 10 points). Problem for the Spurs is when they kept one of our All Stars under 30 points... our other All-Star went ahead and got himself 30 points. To go along with 12 assists. And two rebounds. And a steal. A pretty good early birthday present that Chris Paul gave himself.

There were plenty of times that the Hornets looked noticeably younger and quicker than their "experienced" counterparts. That definitely has something to do with the average ages on the two teams: 27.7 for the Hornets and 31.5 for the Spurs. Not to be overlooked is Coach Byron Scott's infamous military-esque training camp. Those extra laps around the gym are starting to come in handy.

Before this series started, I guessed that it would go the full seven games. I'm not surprised the Hornets are up 2-0. But I am surprised at the dominant fashion in which they got there. Now, let's see if the team can impress me once more and take Game 3 on San Antonio's home court.


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