Game 3 recap: Mavericks 97, Hornets 87

Friday, April 25, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

The big question entering Game 3 was whether New Orleans could continue to play at an extremely high level vs. Dallas, this time in a place where the Hornets haven’t won since 1998.

It didn’t happen. Many of the same shots that swished through the net at the New Orleans Arena clanged off the American Airlines Center rims, the biggest reason why the Hornets couldn’t take a near-insurmountable lead in the series. New Orleans shot only 37.9 percent from the field. All-Stars Chris Paul (4-for-18) and David West (6-for-20) typified the Hornets’ frustrating offensive outing. The only Hornet who made more than half of his shots was Jannero Pargo, who piled up 30 points on 12-for-20 shooting.

New Orleans lost for the 14th consecutive time in Dallas, a streak that the Hornets hope to see end on Sunday. Game 4 is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. in Texas. TNT will be broadcasting the game; you can also listen to the Hornets Radio Network’s coverage, beginning with the 8 p.m. pregame show.

Hornets Update
Chris Paul: Dallas did an infinitely better job of contesting his shots in Game 3, compared to the previous contests in New Orleans. The Mavericks prevented him from consistently getting into the lane for easy baskets or dishes to teammates. He went 2-for-9 from the field in each half, finishing the game with 16 points and 10 assists, after scoring 35 and 32 points in the first two games of the series. Some of the floaters he attempted that usually drop rolled in and out of the rim. Dallas went under high screens for Paul, preferring to let him fire from 18-20 feet.

Morris Peterson: With Jannero Pargo rolling, he only played 10 minutes, the least playing time for Mo Pete of the entire season (not including a Dec. 7 game vs. Memphis in which he was injured early after six minutes). He went 1-for-2 for two points.

Peja Stojakovic: Drained three treys and scored 13 points, but was only 1-for-7 from two-point range.

David West: He was out of sync with his shot early, making only two of his first 13 shots. West was better later on, but Dallas will gladly take his scoring 14 points on 20 field-goal attempts. Grabbed nine rebounds in 40 minutes.

Tyson Chandler: Picked up two fouls in the initial 3:05 of the game, and never seemed to get into the flow. Had two dunks for a total of four points and pulled down 11 rebounds in 33 minutes.

Jannero Pargo: The team MVP on this night, hands down, depositing a career-playoff-high 30 points. He provided a huge spark early, leading the charge from a 15-4 deficit to a brief New Orleans lead in the second quarter. Pargo made his first seven shots from the floor en route to getting those 30 points in 33 minutes.

Bonzi Wells: A pretty effective 23 minutes, scoring six points, all in the first half. Also blocked two shots.

Hilton Armstrong: Inconsistent on the boards throughout the regular season, he had six rebounds in 13 minutes. Also had a nice rejection of a Josh Howard layup attempt and a nifty post move against Dirk Nowitzki, but he missed the five-footer that resulted. Picked up three fouls in the first quarter after Chandler had been whistled for two of his own.

Julian Wright: Showed his explosive athletic ability when he dunked after catching a teammate’s airballed jump shot. ESPN analyst Hubie Brown said after the play, “When he gets minutes, he can do some spectacular things.” Played 10 minutes. Also drew the defensive assignment on Kidd during Dallas’ final possession of the first half.

Game 3 key questions (Hornets lead series 2-0)

A few things to watch for in Game 3:

1) Will we see the same Hornets team we witnessed in Games 1 and 2? Or at least a similar one?
If you’ve followed the NBA playoffs for at least a few years, you’ve seen plenty of instances where the higher-seeded team looked like it was en route to a sweep after dominating the first two games. But then, after a change of venue, the lower-seeded club played infinitely better on its home floor. Next thing you know, you’ve got a long series on your hands, when you once thought it might be a 4-0 runaway. Look at what happened Thursday in the Washington-Cleveland series: it looked semi-hopeless for the Wizards before Game 3, but they pounded the Cavs by 36.

The Hornets were 26-15 on the road this season, second-best in the Western Conference, but only 7-8 after the All-Star break. For the final 24 minutes of Game 1 and pretty much all 48 minutes of Game 2, New Orleans has looked outstanding. Can the Hornets approximate that level of performance in an arena where they haven’t won in 10 years? Speaking of which…

2) Who gains the early upper hand in the Hornets’ third trip of 2007-08 to Dallas?
It’s a cliché that getting off to a fast start is crucial in the NBA, maybe even a little overrated in a 48-minute game, but I think the first quarter of Game 3 could take on added significance. From a confidence standpoint, if the Mavericks dominate the first quarter, it could give them a huge mental boost. A couple Mavs, including Jason Terry, have essentially said in recent days that they believe at least some of their woes in the series will be resolved simply by playing in American Airlines Center, instead of what Terry described as the “voodoo” of New Orleans.

The Mavs were 34-7 at home; if they start quickly, it will be easy for them to think “Hey, we’re back at home. We’re fine now. The Hornets can’t do to us here what they did in New Orleans.” On the other hand, if the Hornets start fast, the pressure will increase greatly on the Mavericks to not go down 3-0 in the series in front of their own fans, who expect better than a quick first-round exit.

3) Does Jason Kidd have an answer?
For the past three days, the nine-time NBA All-Star has been listening to people talk non-stop about how much he’s getting dominated by Chris Paul, who is averaging a staggering 33.5 points and 13.5 assists on 64.1 percent shooting. There has been a great deal of discussion that Paul’s thorough individual whipping of Kidd is a sign that the "torch has been passed" to the next generation of point guards.

Sure, it’s a small sample, but of the five games Kidd has played against New Orleans this season (including one as a member of the New Jersey Nets), he’s nearly averaging a triple-double in two home games, 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 10.0 assists. In three road games, those numbers are 8.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists. It’s yet another example of how much different the results have been in this Southwest Division matchup based on the site. Potential breakout games by Kidd and other slumping Mavs such as Josh Howard and Jerry Stackhouse are a concern.