Hornets-Spurs Game 5: What to look for

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Published: May 13, 2008

1) Defensive adjustments
What worked so well in games 1 and 2 – the double on Tim Duncan – is no longer working, and tonight I expect Byron to try a different sort of defense.  The Spurs countered the double by playing Tim and Manu on the same side of the floor, having Tony deliver, clear and take the opposite wing position, and leaving Bowen in the corner with Kurt Thomas/Oberto screening.  That means the fastest Hornets doubles are Manu's man or Paul.  Manu has such a quick trigger that doubling off of him leads to semi-open perimeter shots or pumpfakes and drives.  Doubling with Paul is the least effective double, because Tim just needs to lift the ball in the air and pass over him.  We were able to hamper Duncan when it was the taller West or Peja coming at him.

Byron has said all along that he needs to keep one of the big three down.  It's probably time to let Duncan operate, and instead run a ball denial, trapping defense on Manu and see if it can generate some turnovers, because despite the Manu's brilliance, he can be forced into errors.

2) West will play well tonight
I mentioned this at the start of the series after all those idiotic articles came out saying the Spurs can't guard David West.  West is a smart player, not a dominant one.  In game one, he took what they were giving him and did well.  In game two, they adjusted and kept him from doing those things.  In game three, he adjusted to what they did in game two and did well.  Game 4 they adjusted and he was unable to get things going.  It's what happened in the regular season too – two big games, two poor games.  Tonight, West will be doing something different, and will probably have a strong game.

3) Again, watch the Wings
The Hornets won't win if one of the wings doesn't step up. That's Pargo, Bonzi, Wright, Stojakovic or Peterson.  One of them needs to give us something in this game – and 'giving us something' does not mean Bonzi taking one more fadeaway shot over a smaller defender, or an isolation ran for Stojakovic against Bowen. 

I also wanted to say one thing about Peja – I don't blame him for the problems he's having.  He was a vital player in the Dallas series and a key one in our first two wins.  Peja is struggling now because of the Hornets offense – as the Spurs apply pressure, is relying more and more on Paul's pick and roll and West's post attack.  Rarely do we get into our offensive sets and run off screens and try to develop mismatches that Peja can take advantage of.  That's what Peja excels in – a disciplined, structured offense.  Calling him out as a problem the last two games is like calling out Harrison Ford for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  With that script, there was no way he was going to shine.

4) Chandler needs to get a couple easy ones
Chandler plays with emotion, and nothing feeds his fire like a few jams.  In the last two games, the Spurs have carefully kept him away from the basket and let Paul get easier buckets instead.  Sadly, that hurts Chandler's performance in the game.  If the Hornets can get Chandler an easy bucket in transition(not an easy prospect) or even give him a down screen on a run to the basket for an alley-oop, that may get him more focused and on fire, which can only help.

5) We will win tonight, probably because I'm not doing the Recap
Nope, I'm not a superstitious guy.

This is the big one guys.  Best of 3.  Take this one and we are in the drivers seat.  Lose, and I think it's over.  If you are in New Orleans and going to this game, you'd better come home hoarse and barely able to talk.

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