The Hornets beat the Mavericks; lead series 2-0

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Published: April 23, 2008

I just got back from watching a near-flawless performance by our New Orleans Hornets in Game 2 of the NBA Playoffs. They came out breathing fire in the first quarter and dumped 39 points on the freshly adjusted Mavericks. A nice start indeed, but a basketball game is made up of four of those period thingys, and not even the NBA's computers could remember the last time the Hornets had put together 48 minutes of great basketball. Surely the fantasticness couldn't last all game.

But yes, it did. The Hornets kept the pedal to the metal and refused to let Dallas make any kind of run to get back in it, maintaining a double-digit lead all through the second half, and building the advantage as high 28 points in the fourth quarter. The 17,855 fans in attendance were prepared for a let down after that exhilarating finish to Game 1 on Saturday, but instead they were treated to another four quarters of dominance by the home team.

Chris Paul vs. Dirk Nowitzki

Notes from the best place on earth…

  • Final score was 127-103. Linkage: recap | box score

  • The big question coming ahead of Game 2: how would the Mavericks adjust to prevent Chris Paul going off like he did in Game 1?

    Well, they tried a few different things. They started out with Jason Kidd guarding him, and hedged hard with Erick Dampier and Dirk Nowitzki on the Hornets' pick and rolls. That didn't work too good, as Chris was able to either lob a pass to our rolling bigs, split the double team himself, or fire it out to the wing for the hockey assist to those same rolling bigs.

    So next Dallas tries single coverage on CP with a bigger body, having Josh Howard pick him up in the backcourt. This gets the ball out of Paul's hands for a while, but now Jason Kidd is guarding Peja Stojakovic and that doesn't have a happy ending for Dallas.

    How about Jason Terry then? He comes off the bench and starts shadowing CP all over the floor, getting help from Brandon Bass to set traps in the backcourt. This doesn't work great either, as Chris manages to find David West at center court easily to break the press, then with Peja, Pargo and Peterson all making their deep looks, the Mavs halfcourt defense is spread wide enough to open up things for West inside.

    And that was just the first quarter. As the game progressed, the Mavs would try some of the same defensive mix to try limit Paul, and then some new stuff, like an Eddie Jones headlock for example. Jerry Stackhouse, Devean George and Antoine Wright would all take turns guarding Chris, too, but it didn't make a difference. If they played solid D and forced Paul to give the ball up, another Hornet would burn them. New Orleans had every weapon locked, loaded and pointed directly at the target tonight. All the Mavs could do was pick one to die by.

  • Chris Paul finished the game with 32 points (10-16 FGs), 17 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 turnovers. How about that for an encore to his crazy-good Playoff debut? He played a really smart game tonight, recognizing the different ways the Mavs were trying to guard him and choosing the perfect response every time. Quite simply, dude was legendary.
  • As a team, the Hornets shot 60.8% for the game. For the game! Has that ever happened in the Playoffs before?

    There will probably be a lot of Mavs fans saying that the Hornets were just on fire, kinda like the Warriors last season. I'll agree with that to an extent, because guys like Mo Pete and Jannero Pargo were nailing shots that they often brick. However, methinks the Hornets great spacing and excellent ball movement also had a lot to do with the high shooting percentage. David West in particular seemed to get a bunch of wide open looks because the Mavs were sending big men out to help on CP. The Hornets also ran the ball pretty good, getting 29 points on the break compared to 13 for the Mavs. That didn't hurt the shooting percentage.

  • Jason Kidd: 7 points (3-of-10 FGs), 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 turnover.
  • Gotta give much credit to Jannero Pargo again for keeping Jason Terry under wraps. Terry was shooting the ball well tonight, but could only squeeze up 8 shots in 31 minutes, thanks to Pargo sticking closer than a Siamese twin. Unlike Game 1, Pargo also had a fine game at the offensive end, too, contributing 10 points and 4 assists. One of those dimes was that great lead pass to Chris at the end of the first quarter, which CP turned into a bucket before 1.8 seconds had evaporated off the clock.
  • Peja Stojakovic had the long bombs dropping. He shot 5-of-7 from deep, making them over multiple defenders or none at all. He also did a pretty nice job defending Josh Howard, who the Mavs were trying to get going early, but finished the game with just 10 points on 3-of-10 shooting. Peja had 22 on 8-of-13 shooting.
  • David West and Dirk Nowitzki scored 27 apiece tonight, with Zee German earning almost half of his at the free throw line. West got a lot of open jumpers in the first half thanks to the defensive attention on Paul, and made the most of mismatches down low to get some buckets inside. In the second half, Weezy attempted just six shots but made four of them, including that jab-step pull-up three over Nowitzki with four minutes left in the ballgame. That shot rocked my world.
  • I could have sworn that the Hornets got every defensive board out there tonight, but somehow the Mavs ended up with a 38-31 rebounding advantage, including a 10-4 edge on the offensive glass.
  • Tyson Chandler delivered another solid performance, finishing with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocks. He needs to be careful though after picking up half a double technical for jawing with Erick Dampier early in the third. That's the second Playoff T for Chandler, and apparently five more will earn him a one-game suspension. Sure, the Hornets might not last long enough for him to pick up five more, but you never know how far we can stretch this magical season. Better safe than sorry.
  • Erick Dampier is not very good at this basketball thing. He did have 6 points and 6 boards in just 16 minutes tonight, but I'm guessing his time was so short because he couldn't defend the pick and roll to save his life. He also botched an open layup in the fourth quarter, and fouled Chris Paul on a jumper (which went in) about a minute later.
  • Brandon Bass deservedly got those minutes left vacant by Dampier. The former Hornet was about the only guy giving Nowitzki significant help out there tonight, going 5-of-5 from the field and 9-of-9 from the line for 19 points and 8 rebounds. Dude should add the letters "da" to the middle of his last name.
  • How about Hilton Armstrong tonight? He got 20 minutes of burn thanks to Tyson's foul trouble, and the kid did pretty good out there. He was aggressive offensively, drawing seven fouls on the Mavericks. He also blocked a couple shots and displayed some nice composure in the paint, twice finishing plays when he was fouled. Oh, and let's not forget him diving out of bounds to save a rebound to Paul late in the third quarter. That led to a fast break triple by Peja.
  • Also strong off the bench was Bonzi Wells, who did his usual bit of everything: 4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist.
  • The Honeybees wore orange outfits during the first half tonight. I hadn't seen that before, and I'm not sure why they went with it, but me definitely likey.
  • At the top of this post I said that the Hornets played a near-flawless game tonight. Offensively, I couldn't have asked for anything more, but there's definite room for improvement at the the other end. After all, the Mavs did score 103 points tonight, up from 92 points in Game 1. We allowed them to shoot 47.1 percent from the floor and they nailed 7-of-14 from deep. They also got to the line 39 times, after we gave them 38 free throws on Saturday.

    One thing we need to work on is defending the baseline. The Mavs seemed to get by our guys down there a few times tonight, particularly in the second quarter when they ran pick and rolls on the wing and ended up with easy buckets. The double-teams on Nowitzki were also a step slow for most of the night. By the time the help got there, Dirk was already in the paint and by then the best we could do was foul. I'd also like to see our guys closing out a little better on the shooters. A lot of the Mavs' three-point misses were wide open looks that wouldn't go down. I'm not sure we'll continue to be so lucky.

Anyways, methinks I'll leave it about there. Lots more I could write about such a fine performance, but I'll let you guys fill in the blanks as I kick back and enjoy a victory beer from my "Dallas Sucks" koozie (thanks, YoungFella).

Next up, the series shifts to Dallas for Game 3 on Friday. The Hornets have this whole Playoff thing figured out at home, now let's see how it goes on the road.

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