Time to Do Dallas . . . Twice
I’m not going to do a full game preview here. New Orleans fans know Dallas. Maybe not as well as Debbie does, but after last year’s playoff run and the two games earlier this year, most of us have a pretty good feel for what we can expect from Nowitzki and crew as the Hornets face off against them in Dallas tonight, and in New Orleans Sunday.
To me, those games will act like a barometer for what we can expect from the Hornets in the post-season. Unlike the last two games of the season – against Houston and San Antonio, these games can clearly determine if the Hornets get the eighth seed and the Lakers in the first round, or a team like San Antonio, Houston or Denver. These are games we should win. Kidd can’t handle Paul, Nowitzki only marginally outperforms West, and Josh Howard always wilts when he’s on the floor with one of his much more famous and accomplished Wake Forest Alums.(Paul and Duncan) Star struck, I’m sure.
Now, I don’t think the Hornets have to win both games for me to have hope. They can split them. Dallas is a good team, and if they take one by six or seven points, it’s not signifying the end. However, if the Hornets do what Utah or Phoenix did against the Mavs recently – simply lay down and die – then that’s a different matter, because a team has to have an edge to get anywhere in the playoffs.
That’s what I worry about the most right now. Yes, the Hornet’s still have to have Tyson back for the playoffs, but if they get there and have no edge, it’s not going to matter how many lobs Tyson puts down.
There is no question that the Hornets are normally a scrappy, almost unpleasant, team. It’s what got the Hornets into the elite out West. Chris Paul is ghoul-like: a bit dirty, feral, and happiest when feasting on someone’s soul. West and Tyson often play with an emotional edge that can really get under an opponent’s skin, and if someone drives to the hoop near Posey, he’s going to leave a mark.
But has anyone seen that team recently? Paul is still ferocious, but at times his body can’t seem to keep up anymore with his aggression. I worry even more for the rest of the team. West hasn’t gotten a technical in months. He used to roar “And One!” every other play, sometimes even when he wasn’t the one with the ball. I think I’ve heard him say it once in the past four games. Before he went out, Posey’s vicious defense had become half-lazy. When Paul sits down, there’s no tough-as-nails Pargo to body up and play 94-feet of pressure defense on an opposing point, so Paul has to play 42 minutes a game. So does West. So does Butler. Peja’s logged 46 and 38 minutes in his last two games, coming off a back injury.
It worries me. The team is tired. I’m just hoping they arent so tired that it’s robbed them of their edge.