Hornets-Mavericks Game 2: What to watch for

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Published: April 22, 2008

This past Saturday, the Hornets dominated the second half of their Playoff opener against the Dallas Mavericks and came away with a 104-92 victory. Game 2 goes down tomorrow at the New Orleans Arena. Here's what to watch for…

Tyson and Peja double up on Diggler

1) The Mavericks' efforts to slow Chris Paul

The story of Game 1 was Dallas' inability to stop Chris Paul, who went off for 35 points and 10 assists in his Playoff debut, repeatedly blowing by Jason Kidd and escaping the Mavs' half-assed traps. Priority number one for Dallas will be to ensure that doesn't happen again.

I'd be surprised if Avery Johnson opts to have Kidd guard Paul as much in Game 2. Methinks Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and possibly even Eddie Jones are all more capable of slowing CP, so they may take turns defending the point. It will need to be a team effort by the Mavs though, so expect them to trap Chris more frequently and much more aggressively. They'll likely send two guys at him in the backcourt and hedge hard on pick and rolls. And if all that fails, expect to see the Mavs throw a zone at us.

2) More physical play and confrontations

On average, the Hornets committed 18.7 fouls and the Mavericks shot 25.3 free throws per game during the regular season. In Game 1, the Hornets gave up 24 fouls, leading to 38 free-throw attempts for Dallas. David West and Tyson Chandler took turns knocking Dirk Nowitzki around, while the German took his own shot at Chris Paul in the fourth quarter. With the Hornets eager to keep their edge and the Mavs out to prove they can't be pushed around, expect more of the rough stuff in Game 2.

The Hornets had better be careful though not to get key guys in foul trouble; both Bonzi Wells and Peja Stojakovic had their minutes limited because of that on Saturday, while Chandler and Paul suffered the same fate in Dallas last Wednesday. The Mavs are also the best free throw shooting team in the League, so putting them on the line is always going to cost you.

3) Dallas getting in the lane

The Mavs trapped Paul pretty good in that regular season finale, but they didn't have the same success in Game 1. According to Avery Johnson, the big reason why is because Dallas settled for and missed long jumpers on Saturday, and the Hornets were able to rebound and get the ball upcourt before the defense got its shit together. Lending to this theory is the fact that New Orleans held a 36-16 advantage in points in the paint.

In Game 2, I doubt we'll see the Mavs settling for so many jump shots. Jason Kidd and Josh Howard were especially passive in the opener, so they'll both be much more aggressive and looking to get to the basket. Dallas also needs Erick Dampier to step his game up and try counter Tyson Chandler's energy at both ends of the floor. Dampier managed just 4 points and 4 rebounds in Game 1, while Tyson finished with 10 and 15.

4) Jannero Pargo vs. Jason Terry

In Game 1, Pargo was tasked to slow down Jason Terry, who had averaged 22.0 points against us in the regular season. JP did a nice job, closing the lane to the basket and not letting Terry shake loose for open jumpers. It will be interesting to see how Avery Johnson tries to get Terry going again. We might even see him in the starting lineup instead of Stackhouse so he can try find an early groove without Pargo in his jersey.

5) David West in the low post

The Mavs sent a lot of double teams at West in Game 1, particularly in the low post. As a result, D-Weezy only got off four shots in the lane, settling mostly for jump shots instead. With the Mavs now intent on stopping Paul, we might see less focus on West down low, which will hopefully give him more opportunities to get in the lane and produce.

6) Consistent focus by the Hornets

Our guys only showed up for the second half of Game 1, after squashing the jitters and deciding to play some defense. We've been seeing those same Jekyll and Hyde games from the Hornets all season, and they don't always end so good. A strong start will be key in Game 2, because the Mavericks won't be letting us overcome a double-digit deficit again in a hurry.

7) More positive contributions from Bonzi Wells

Chris Paul had a plus-mius score of +16 in Game 1. So did Bonzi Wells, despite playing half as many minutes. Bonzi proves his worth all over the floor, able to post up strong or bull his way to the basket on offense, while playing lock-down D and rebounding like a badass at the other end. And if he's hitting his jumper, not even the Technodrome can stop him.

(Photo courtesy of Tyler Kaufman)

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