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The Hornets beat the Mavericks; win series 4-1
There it is.
The Hornets just got done putting the finishing touches on the Mavs in Game 5. It was a series some picked the Hornets to win, but never this easily and never this fast. It's the first time the Hornets have advanced to the second round since 2002, the first time they've got past the first round here in New Orleans, and the first time the franchise has ever won a seven-game series. As an avid fan of the teal since about 1995, my world is pretty damn good right about now.
I'll forego the random bullets for the recap and instead take you step-by-step through a few kick-ass hours of Hornets history…
I get to the Arena at 5:30p.m., about a half hour before game time. Massive crowds outside, so I down a free beer and join the queue. Doesn't take long to get inside and to my seat, just in time for the goosebump-inducing intro the Hornets have for these Playoffs. They've got clips of Billy Bob Thornton and Kurt Russell giving inspiring speeches from movies I've never seen (shame on me), mixed with game highlights and rousing music. Hairs I didn't know I had are standing on end.
After that's done, I spend a minute wondering if the giant disco ball hanging from the rafters is new or if it's been there all season. I'm snapped out of it by Byron Scott being presented his Coach of the Year trophy at center court. The crowd maintains a deafening roar of approval for at least a week. The energy is electric as We Will Rock You blares and we're just about ready to tip. Deep breath…
– The Mavs start out really slow. Josh Howard's first contribution to the game is a turnover. Dirk Nowitzki's first touch becomes an airball. Meanwhile, Jason Kidd is hearing 18,260 boos every time he touches the ball. This is going well.
5:22 – Chris Paul comes around a hard hedge and dives into the lane. Once there he picks up his dribble, fakes a pass, leaves his feet, fakes a shot, then finds Tyson Chandler for an open jam. 17-11 Hornets and Dallas would like a timeout now please thanks.
The Mavs are not looking good on D, getting caught looking confused and disjointed an a few trips already. Tyson Chandler is getting frustrated with Dampier. Our big man has some legit complaints about unnecessary roughness, but most of it is because he's not boxing out Dampier and then getting knocked off balance when dude crashes the lane for a rebound. Meanwhile, Dirk is scoreless, having been forced into some tough looks by David West, and Jason Kidd and Josh Howard are a combined 5-of-6 from the field for all the Mavs' points. Don't stop sucking now, guys.
4:13 – Brandon Bass is in the game already, having replaced Dampier. Nowitzki flops going to the basket, resulting in no call and an easy bucket by the Hornets at the other end.
(For the record, I'll be talking a lot about Nowitzki's flops in this game, and I should point out that I can't confirm or deny if a lot of them are actual flops right now, because I didn't record the game or anything and I haven't seen any replays. All first impressions.)
2:31 – Wests post up Bass, turns into a double team, fades, gets fouled and makes the shot anyway. Hornets lead it 23-13 and Byron will burn a timeout. An impressive start for the Hornets. Tyson already has 6 points and 6 boards, and Chris has 6 assists. Evil. Josh Howard is the only Mav looking to penetrate, so it's no surprise that Dallas have yet to shoot a free throw.
– 28-22 Hornets after one. The Mavs got to the basket for some easy ones late, including a blow-by of Bonzi Wells by Jerry Stackhouse, and a dive inside by Howard off some sloppy defensive rotations. Our offense is running smooth though, with Paul and West killing Kidd and Bass on the pick and pop.
– Interesting move by Avery Johnson. He starts with the same five that finished the first: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, Dirk Nowitzki and Brandon Bass. Byron has our usual four reserves and a starter out there: Pargo, JuJu, Bonzi, Peja and Hilton.
11:11 – Wright cuts base and a posting Bonzi finds him underneath for the slam. Oh look, that was on Stackhouse. Hasn't JuJu dunked on Stack twice already in this series?
8:46 – Pargo wraps up Stackhouse to stop a fast break. Only Stack makes the basket. Our lead is down to one and the Mavs are chest-bumping and high-fiving as we head to a timeout. Byron gets West and Chandler back in the game. Hilton was getting beat bad on the glass by Brandon Bass.
8:03 – We're tied at 32 as Chris Paul reenters the fray. He usually sits until midway through the second, but the Mavs ain't napping so we can't either.
5:56 – We've got a 3-point lead as we head into another timeout. Chris, who's being guarded by Howard right now, just found Pargo for a triple, then West for a 16-footer next trip. Stackhouse is posting up CP hard at the other end and it's causing us problems.
5:09 – Chris battles against Stackhouse down low again, and manages to force him into a turnover. Sweet.
4:37 – Nowitzki flops again. David West just blocked his fadeaway from the top of the key, but Dirk ending up on his ass convinced the refs that he must have been fouled. On the big screen they show a couple of signs in the crowd: "Stop the flop!" and "Dirk: No-win-skis here!"
– As Zee German dusts himself off, CP and Stack get into it after yet another scuffle down low. Nothing serious comes of it but a double tech is called. AJ then decides to take Stack out of the game, even though he was doing pretty good against Chris down low. Jason Terry comes back in.
2:58 – Tyson Chandler tips in a miss by CP, Josh Howard travels, and West tosses in another fadeaway as he's fouled by Dampier. Dallas will take time, West will make the free throw, and the Hornets now lead it 49-37. Everything is rolling for us right now. The Hive is jumping.
– Out of the timeout, Howard opts for a tough jumper after one pass. Airball. Did Avery draw that one up? Whatever. Kidd is guarding CP now, while Terry is hounding Pargo.
1:30 – Pargo jumps down to steal a rebound from Bass, then takes off on the break. A crossover and a spin move later, and JP finds Peja trailing for three. Boom!
– To end the half, Pargo tosses in a pull-up on the break, then Dirk either flops or gets hacked after an offensive rebound. No call. The Mavs bench is extremely pissed.
15-point lead for the Hornets as he head into the break.
- Great half of basketball. The Hornets are crushing souls right now.
- The Oak Ridge Boys come out to perform, but there's a technical problem delaying the music. After a couple of minutes, the group says screw it and goes a capella with some song I've never heard.The crowd gets into it. Nice job, fellas.
- Bonzi and Hilton were our only disappointments in the first half. Neither of them gave us much. We won't see either of them on the floor for the rest of the night.
- JuJu and West emerge from the locker room to shoot long before anyone else.
- Both teams have shot just six free throws so far. That works well for us.
10:25 – We've got an early Hornets timeout thanks to a pair of early triples from Jason Terry. Our guys got a couple of inside looks but couldn't convert. Oh, and Brandon Bass started this here second half. Sorry, Erick, you're done for the night.
– During the timeout, emcee Brittany introduces Tommy Lee to the crowd. I can't help but think that half the Arena has seen that man's penis.
– Out of that timeout, Mo Pete airballs a 20-footer. Hmm.
8:56 – Chris Paul throws a nice lob pass to West on the low block, causing Bass to land on his ass as DX wets a J over a helping Dirk
6:53 – West puts Bass in the spin cycle down low for 2. Sweet move. Dirk shakes loose for a dunk at the other end, and West comes back at Zee German with a shot fake, one dribble and another J. That's 20 points for West, and the Hornets lead it by 10.
4:05 – Lots of pushing and shoving going on. Dirk just gave Mo a helping hand out of bounds trying to get a loose ball. No foul, but Hornets get it back. On the inbound, Tyson pushes off Dirks's foreign face to get open. No call there either.
3:56 – Chris drops a tough-times-three layup over Bass and lands on his back out over the baseline. 8-point lead for New Orleans, timeout for Dallas. Our guys are complaining a lot to the officials now about the calls, but methinks the refs are making balanced calls for the most part. We just need to get better shots, because we've gone to some kind of one-pass offense that's not creating any good looks. Meanwhile, the Mavs are getting plenty of space on offense, and chipping away at the lead.
– During the timeout, Hugo finds Reggie Bush sitting courtside and gets him to sign a football. Then the Hugo asks Reggie to throw it into the crowd. The crowd goes nuts. Bush finally complies and four people die trying to catch the pass.
– Out of the timeout, Tyson gets a solid stop on a determined Bass, then Chris works the two-man game with West until he gets an open three. Chalk it up.
2:51 – Bass shakes off four Hornets to grab his own rebound off the floor and rise up for a grown-ass man dunk. Dude is made of tanks. Thirty seconds later, Jason Terry gets free for a dunk. Our defense does not look good.
0:58 – Brandon Bass gets another offensive rebound. T-would be nice if we could stop that from happening. It's down to a 5-point game after a pair of Jason Terry free throws, and then Tyronn Lue enters the game for Jason Kidd.
– Wait, what?
0:31 – West goes at Bass again, this time driving left down the lane and spinning back for the right-handed hook. And the foul. We needed that.
– Great D to end the quarter. Tyson met Stackhouse at the rim for the block, then West rejected Stack again on the rebound. We got beat 24-17 that quarter, and the lead is eight heading into the final frame. It would be nice if we could pass the ball some on offense and close out on the Mavs shooters.
Before it gets started, Hugo rises in front of the visitors tunnel in one of those mini platform crane things. Whatever you call them. The words "FAN UP" are written down the side of the drapes hung from this thing. The crowd gets hyped.
– The quarter starts with Josh Howard shadowing Chris Paul, while Pargo assumes point guard duties against Terry.
11:21 – Howard launches a three. It's way too long. He's not having a good game.
10:07 – Wright fouls Dirk. Not a hard foul, but Dirk flops on his ass anyway. The crowd chants "flop flop flop" as Nowitzki shoots the freebies. He misses the second.
9:42 – Our offense is still suffering from a lack of ball movement, but Pargo drops a pull-up three to make it a 10-point game again.
9:09 – Howard tries to feed Dirk on the wing, but JuJu steps in for the steal. Somehow, Dirk ends up on his ass again. I'm in complete disbelief as Pargo finishes the break and Dallas calls timeout. 12-point lead now and it looks like we might have seen the Mavs' last gasp. Rock and Roll Part II blares as the Arena bounces. Bob Petit is introduced to the crowd as Hugo does one-armed push-ups at center court.
8:11 – Paul grabs a rebound and is off to the races. He gets to the far key and pulls a wicked crossover on Jason Terry, dislocating Jet something awful. CP then lays it off to Wright but the rookie is fouled before he can rise up. Off the baseline inbound, Chris tries an oop to Tyson, but Bass gets up there for a nasty block. Paul stays with the play though, scooping up the loose ball and firing in a fading baseline 18-footer over Nowitzki. Stuff of legend.
7:00 – West blocks a jumper by Dirk, then finds a cutting Pargo at the other end for a nice reverse layup. Our lead is up to 17, the Mavs call time I'm thinking this game, and the series for that matter, is over. Shout comes on the big screen as the crowd descends further into delirium.
6:42 – Tyson argues with an official about an out of bounds that definitely doesn't belong to us. Chill, big man. He almost earns himself another tech before Byron benches him for Peja. Good move.
5:24 – The Mavs are now pressing us harder in the backcourt, and Jason Kidd and Devean George have decided to try out that scoring thing.
4:59 – Pargo up-fakes Kidd out high and baits him into a foul on the jumper. The entire Arena laughs at Kidd while somehow booing him at the same time.
4:18 – Dallas has resorted to a wide zone defense, and it seems to be working for them. They forced a shot clock violation that trip. After that, George gets to the hoop for the three-point play, drawing the blocking foul on Wright, who had both feet inside the circle. Whoops. 11-point game.
3:18 – A jumper by Paul is canceled out by a Stackhouse dunk on the break. Shit. Then West gets to the line and sinks a pair. Brandon Bass has been on the bench for the last four minutes. 13-point game.
1:53 – Boom! Three straight triples for the Mavericks: Kidd, Nowitzki and George. We're leaving their shooters wide open. Luckily, Chris Paul is doing his MVP thing, and dropping mid-range jumpers all over Dallas. 8-point game.
1:47 – The Mavs send seventeen guys after CP in the backcourt, and end up fouling him. A few seconds after the call, Stackhouse walks behind Chris and slaps the ball out of his hands. West has words with Stack but holds back on the face-touching. The officials issue Jerry a technical foul. That's his second, so he'll be watching the rest of this one from the locker room. Good move, sucker.
– Chris nails both free throws and we're back to a 10-point game.
1:24 – After Dirk gets a free pass to the rim, Pargo is fouled and rims a pair of free throws. Damn it. Can't we put these fools away and move on to the next round already?
1:17 – Devean George says no. His third three of the quarter makes it a 5-point game.
0:40 – West goes right at Brandon Bass but can't drop the right-handed runner. Rebound goes to Dallas, but they can't take advantage of a Nowitzki-Paul mismatch at the other end, instead settling for another long bomb from George. Thanks to a great close-out by Tyson, that shot it off, but the ball is out of bounds off New Orleans.
0:33 – A Dallas timeout later, and Dirk launches a three over Pargo. No good, but there's Bass underneath for another rebound and a foul on West. Bass makes both freebies to make it a 3-point game. I'm nervous. Lose this game and this series could easily stretch to seven. Then who knows what could happen.
– After a quick timeout by the Hornets, we get the ball up court and isolate Paul on Jason Terry. CP goes to work and ends up with a 17-footer to seal it. No good, but Tyson gets a tap out and it's back in the mitts of our point guard with a fresh shot clock. Six seconds left, Dallas has to foul, so CP finds the best free throw shooter in the NBA.
– Peja cans both free throws. Several of his heads do laps of the court on sticks. 5-point lead. This game is over.
Camera crews descend on the victors as Hugo crosses off number 13 on the sideline. People are in no hurry to leave their seats, preferring to stand there and absorb the gloriousness or just dance their asses off. I flash back real quick to December 5th; my first game at the Arena. Lots of empty seats and a shitty loss back then, a packed house and jubilation right now. It's only fantastic.
I meet up with the usual suspects outside the Arena. Everyone's glowing. As we walk with the crowd down Girod and through the tunnel, there's "Whoo's" all around us. A dude stands in the middle of the street jamming some good stuff on a saxophone. The Hibernia building is lit up purple, teal and gold in the sky.
We make our way to Gordon Biersch for the post-game radio show. More glowing, drinks flowing, Chris Paul walks through and gets the MVP chants going. Suns-Spurs on TV. I get home in time for the fourth quarter. Damn you, Phoenix. I thought you could stretch it out a little longer than that. But it's cool. We're ready for round 2.
Bring it on, San Antonio.