The Hornets beat the Spurs; lead series 2-0

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Published: May 6, 2008

So the Spurs made their adjustments. They clamped down on David West, holding him to 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting. They got a much better game from Tim Duncan, who scored 18 on 6-of-11 shooting. They hit the boards harder, they mixed up their defense even more, and Gregg Popovich gave Ime Udoka bundles of playing time.

All that, and we still beat them by 18 points. 

Chris Paul and the Hornets celebrate another blowout victory over the Spurs

Notes from section 305…

  • Final score was 102-84. Linkage: recap | box score

  • The Hornets defense was again the biggest story. Tim Duncan might have had a better offensive showing, but he was made work for those 18 points. Timmy was seeing the double teams again for most of the night, and this time it seemed like we threw a little wrinkle at him: In Game 1 we sent the doubles mostly from the wing, but more so in Game 2 the double (usually Chris Paul) was coming across the key from the weak side to catch him by surprise when he made his move to the basket. It worked well.
  • Our defensive rotations off those doubles were also like clockwork. The Spurs were trying to swing the ball out of the post, around and down to the corner for an open three. What the Hornets were doing was sending whoever doubled Duncan directly to that far corner off the kick out, while the other guys on the perimeter rotated up to cover any drives down the middle. I'm surprised the Spurs didn't try to work us more on that by swinging the ball back around and feeding Duncan inside a second time.
  • The defense on Tony Parker was tight. He only had 11 points (5-14 FGs) tonight, compared to his 23 on Saturday. Paul, Pargo and Peterson took turns guarding him. It actually seemed like we had a different guy on him every defensive trip; methinks Byron might have switched it up often so he'd never get too comfortable. We chose to go under the screen on the pick and rolls, letting Parker shoot if he wanted to. He didn't make many of them, and then found the seams too tight when he tried to prod the lane.
  • As for the Spurs defense, they doubled West a bit more than they did in Game 1, but mostly they just had guys like Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto play much tighter on him, not giving him much room to get the jumper going. West still got some open looks in the game, but just couldn't knock them down like he did on Saturday. He played a smart game though, not trying to force anything too much and making up for the scoring woes by grabbing 10 boards and dishing 5 assists. He had some nice skip passes out of the double teams that resulted in open shots for guys like Peterson and Stojakovic.
  • Peja really had the stroke going tonight. He hit 5-of-7 from deep, 8-of-13 overall, and finished with 25 points. Our bigs freed him up off some nice picks in the paint several times, and he also got some open looks by running the floor and spotting up in the right place for kick outs. The Spurs sure could have used Bruce Bowen on him.
  • But of course Bowen was busy trying to stop Chris Paul, which didn't work out too good. CP went off for 30 points and 12 assists. Like the Mavs before them, the Spurs tried to make him either a scorer or a passer, but certainly not both, and Chris managed to two-face them anyways. Kid is just too good, and Jeff Bower has surrounded him with so many complimentary weapons out there that the Spurs might as well be trying to stop an asteroid with a tennis racket.
  • Speaking of weapons, Morris Peterson was a very effective one tonight. I loved Byron Scott's call to feed him in the post against Tony Parker on the Hornets' very first offense. Hello layup. Mo Pete would shoot the ball four more times and not miss once, finishing with 12 points in 24 minutes. Mo is now 18-of-31 from the field in the layoffs, while continuing to play solid defense every damn game.
  • The Spurs threw some zone D at us to start the fourth quarter, and managed to shrink a 16-point Hornets lead down to 9. The Hornets figured it out quick though, getting more penetration from Paul off the pick and roll to free up Tyson at the rim and Peja at the three point line. Just like that, we'd reeled off ten straight points and the Spurs were cooked.
  • I only have one complaint tonight, and that's Byron leaving our entire starting five on the floor out of a timeout with 3:09 to go in the game. Coach, I love you, man, but when you're up by 19 points and the opposing team has just waved the white flag by emptying the bench, you get the big guns out of there pronto. The Hornets are starting to look like serious contenders right now, but all it would take is an injury to Chris Paul or David West to bring us crashing back down to earth. There's no reason to risk that.
  • One thing the Spurs did differently to get Duncan more scoring opportunities: they looked to feed him from the top of the key, tossing it inside off the reverse when we fronted to deny the pass on the low block. We didn't let that burn us too much though, eventually getting a weak-side big over to deter the entry pass.
  • Tyson only played 27 minutes because of that foul trouble, but grabbed 11 boards anyway. You know, for gits and shiggles. He also provided two nice highlights with an early rejection of Tony Parker and a fourth quarter mega-oop from Paul. He may have tea-bagged Tim Duncan a little as he descended from the latter.
  • Good transition D tonight from both sides. We allowed the Spurs just 3 measly fast break points, but didn't do much better with only 8 of our own.
  • There were more famous faces at the Arena tonight than I've ever seen there before. Seemed like they had a different celebrity on the big screen during every timeout. Roll call: Danny Glover, Glenn Dorsey, Forest Whitaker, Mike McKenzie, Isaiah Washington, Steven Jackson (Rams RB), and Deuce McAllister.
  • I don't think Manu Ginobili is at 100%. He came into this series with an injured left ankle, and judging by his performance it must be still bothering him. He hasn't looked much like his explosive self yet in this series, preferring to settle for jumpers rather than drive the lane. Tonight he had just 13 points on 4-of-10 shooting, adding 7 assists and 5 turnovers.
  • The Spurs did much better on the glass tonight, winning the battle 41-40 after we beat them 50-34 on Saturday. San Antonio seemed to have a big rebounding edge in the first half, which could have had a lot to do with Tyson being stuck on the bench in foul trouble. I also thought our rebounding suffered a little because of the switching man-to-man defense, which often left our guys unsure of which Spur to box out. I guess that's only improved by better focus and communication.
  • Julian Wright was our best man off the pine tonight. He didn't get to play but garbage time in the second half, but he came with the usual combustion in the second quarter and caused some havoc on defense. I continue to be impressed with his excellent close-out defense, where he always manages to stay on his feet to cut off both the drive and the jump shot. Offensively, he knocked down a pair of open triples that we really needed in that offensively-challenged first half, and at one point fired a perfect fast break bounce feed to Bonzi for a jam.
  • Ely, Pargo and Wells also played significant minutes off the bench tonight. All three played solid defense. Pargo was busting through screens to keep up with Parker in the second quarter, while Bonzi and Ely teamed up and trapped Ginobili on two consecutive trips in the second quarter, forcing a turnover each time. Those three amigos struggled offensively though, combining for just 9 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
  • No sign of SuperHugo tonight. Strange that.
  • Play of the game? Second place goes to Chris Paul for his incredible drive to end the third quarter. He blew right by Parker on the left wing, swung the ball up and over the helping hand of Oberto as he busted into the lane, then finished with a stretching right-handed scoop as Tim Duncan lunged at him. That was some MVP shit right there.

    But what got me buzzing more was that sequence at about the 5-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Tyson came out high and hard to cut Manu off on the pick and roll, then rushed back down the lane in time to tip Manu's attempted lob to Duncan. Peja took off after the loose ball and saved it back in bounds on the sideline. About 12 seconds and 94 feet later, West has the ball on the low block but sees another double coming. He steps away from it and fires a bullet cross court to Mo Pete on the wing. Mo draws a defender, which leaves Peja all alone in the corner. Three ball is good. 16-point lead. Let's go pack for San Antonio.

Yup, it's off to Texas for Thursday's Game 3, where the Spurs will be looking for some help from the home crowd to get back in this series. The champs are on the ropes right now, needing four wins in five games to stay alive and advance to the next round, while our Hornets need just a pair of victories for their first ever trip to the Conference Finals.

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