The Mavericks beat the Hornets

Published: April 17, 2008

The regular season is dunzo. 56-26, a new franchise record, and we head into the Playoffs as the number two seed, ready to do battle with those same Dallas Mavericks who just beat us down in Texas.

Dirk Nowitzki vs. David West

Final score was 111-98 tonight ( recap | box score | standings ). Our guys actually came out of the gate with some intensity for a change, and strong starts from Chris Paul and David West helped us build an early double-digit lead. But the Mavs fought back like you knew they would, and it was a two-point game at halftime. Third quarter, the Hornets raced out to an 11-point lead, but then got blitzed by a 30-6 Mavs run spanning into the fourth. With Chris Paul on the bench in foul trouble, David West led a bunch of reserves to close the gap to four points down the stretch. Then Jason Terry continued to rain jumpers and the Mavs finished with a flourish.

I'm not happy that we lost this one, but I see a lot of silver lining. Allow me to be annoyingly optimistic and list some reasons to be cheerful as we get ready to face Dallas in the Playoffs…

  • First and foremost, we know how the Mavs are going to play Chris Paul. Tonight they started pressing him in the backcourt, which worked a treat for them and helped blow the game open in the third quarter, and again in the final minutes. Most likely, Dallas will try the exact same thing in the Playoffs; get the ball out of CP's hands and force someone else to beat them. I'm assuming the Hornets will be much better prepared for that full court press by the weekend.
  • We had Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler in foul trouble, both playing less than their usual minutes, and it's a four-point game with under three minutes to go. Bear in mind that this game was played in Dallas, where the Hornets have not won once since 1998, and against a team who really didn't want to face the Lakers in the first round. Despite all that going against us, I don't think we rolled over and gave it up without a fight.
  • Jason Kidd was 5-of-8 from three tonight. That's not normal. In fact, I think the last time Kidd nailed five three-pointers in a game was the week before never. Sure, the Hornets can't give him those same W I D E open looks in the Playoffs, but I'd rather take my chances with Kidd tossing them up from deep than Dirk Nowitzki.
  • Speaking of Zee German, people might counter that last point with the fact that Dirk is usually good for a lot more than the 12 points he scored tonight, but I think the Hornets do a pretty good job containing him. David West had him smothered for most of the game, and Tyson switched over and did a decent job in the fourth. In his four games against the Hornets this season, Dirk has averaged just 17.3 points on 37% shooting. Consider that his season average is 23.8ppg on 48% shooting.
  • Even though we have the higher seed and home court, I figure the pressure is mostly on Dallas going in. If the Hornets lose the series, people will just say "oh well, they're young and inexperienced, give 'em some time." On the flip side, a quick exit for the Mavs would probably be seen as disastrous, since they've had massively disappointing Playoff losses the past two seasons and they traded away a good young point for an older one who's supposed to get them over the top now or never.
  • I was worried that the Mavs would gain a psychological edge over the Hornets if we lost tonight. While that may still prove to be true, I thought from the body language in the final minutes that our guys were taking this result as more of a wake-up call than anything. A win tonight might have had our guys expecting the first round to be a cakewalk. Hopefully the loss will shake them up a bit and raise the intensity in practice these next few days.
  • I can only assume that Leon Wood will not be officiating the entire Hornets-Mavs series. That's a very good thing. You see, in Leon Land this isn't a foul.

I won't go to bed worry-free tonight though. There are most definitely some concerns for the Hornets ahead of this series. Number one would probably be Jason Terry. That guy killed us again tonight, dropping 30 points on 12-of-19 shooting in just 29 minutes of burn. He's averaged 22 points (57% FGs) against us this season, and we've yet to find a way to stop him. Dude seems to move really well without the ball, and sneaks to open spots on the floor where he'll catch and let fly. He's dangerous.

We'll also have to take good care of the home court against the Mavs. They say a Playoff series never really starts until the home team loses, and I have a feeling that's what it will come down to in this one. If we can defend the Hive, the series will obviously be ours, but one slip in these first two games and we're under huge pressure to steal one in Dallas.

Other things bothering me include Jannero Pargo's recent suckage and Byron Scott's short leash on him. Maybe he should have let the kid play through it tonight, I don't know. Foul trouble will also be a concern. Tyson and CP seem to be picking up clumsy ones more and more often these days, and our second unit can't be trusted to bridge big gaps when those two are on the bench. Putting the Mavs on the line isn't a great idea either, since they shoot free throws better than any team in the League.

But let me flip back to the sunny side of the street again, because the wait is finally over. Just 36 months removed from that soul-crushing 18-64 season, and we're back in the big show.

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