Hornets-Mavericks Game 5: What to Watch For

Byron Scott will be presented with his Coach of the Year trophy before tonight's game, earning some deserved hardware to put on his mantle next to his championship rings.  Meanwhile on the other bench, a former Coach of the Year will be hoping his newest game plan will make it possible for his team to steal one in New Orleans.  We'll see.

You'll notice that most of the questions below are focused on the Mavericks.  The Hornets are in control and should just keep playing they way they are – it's up to the Mavericks to make some changes.

1) Are the Mavericks broken?

Watch the body language of the Mavs during the first big push the Hornets make.  They gave up in game 4, and other than Terry, Dirk and the ineffective Devean Goerge, rolled over for the Hornets when they went on a run in the third.  Judging by their follow-up comments comments, their actions on the court, and the way Avery has been coaching, they could roll over again.  Tonight, we should rip out their throat when they do and say hello to the second round.

2) Will Josh Howard show anything?

My series preview of this matchup(posted on Yahoo's Ball Don't Lie Blog) addressed just how similar these two teams were, but that was entirely contingent on Josh Howard at least matching Peja.  So far the only thing he's matched is the number of long jumpshots taken per game – which isn't good for a slasher.  If Howard can get something going, the Mavs may still be able to make a game of this.  If his confidence and slashing game doesn't return, Dirk will once more have to carry a heavy load.

3) Will Jason Kidd be a buttmunch?

Okay, that's a trick question.  Jason Kidd IS a buttmunch.  The real question is how his bitterness over losing early in the playoffs will play out tonight.  Hopefully he'll take it like a man and not try to lash out again.

4) Will the Foul Line be in Play again?

The first three games of this series were very uncharacteristic for the Hornets.  For a team that gave up the least number of free-throws per game to allow the Mavericks to shoot 38, 39 and 38 free throws was pretty shocking.  In Game 4, the Hornets were back to their usual ways, keeping the opponents off the line and making them make shots.  The Mavs only have a chance if they can get back to the line, and that's on Dirk, Josh Howard(again, a key player), and Brandon Bass to force.  If they come out aggressive early and get to the line, this game will be a real one.

5) The New Orleans Crowd Rocks

I just wanted to say that.  And I LOVE Peja on a Stick.  It's so damn random.

Let's see if West and the Hornets can close this one out tonight and start preparing for Ginobili and the Spurs.

Oh and as a sidebar, I've been invited to be a guest on The Rant, broadcasting on ESPN Radio 1300 in Baton Rouge.  Should be on sometime today around 12:30 Central if you'd like to tune in.  I believe you can also listen over the Web by going to the WIBR site.

Enjoy the game!

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