Game 4 recap: Hornets 97, Mavericks 84

Sunday, April 27, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Prior to Sunday, the Hornets hadn’t won a game in Dallas since 1998. So if you’re going to end a decade-long streak like that, why not do it by holding the high-powered Mavericks to a meager 84 points, their second-worst offensive game since they acquired Jason Kidd in February? Why not do it by dominating the second half, sending Mavericks fans to the exits in droves midway through the fourth quarter?

This one was especially sweet for the Hornets, who went up 92-73 with 3:38 remaining. At that moment you heard something you never thought would happen in the American Airlines Center: visiting Hornets fans loudly doing the “MVP" chant for Chris Paul, as the All-Star point guard stood at the foul line. The Mavericks’ fans who opted not to leave early were left with the task of trying to drown out that chant by booing.

A quality road team all season, New Orleans shook off an ominous start Sunday – down 30-23 after a quarter – to pull into a 48-44 halftime lead. The Hornets gradually took control of the scoreboard in the second half, led by big third quarters from David West (10 of his game-best 24 points) and Peja Stojakovic (8 of his 19 points). New Orleans went up 10 through three quarters; Dallas never got within single digits in the final stanza.

With the game slipping away at 7:16 of the fourth quarter, Dallas point guard Jason Kidd was ejected after committing a flagrant foul (type 2) on Jannero Pargo. As Pargo drove to the basket for a fast-break layup attempt, Kidd yanked Pargo to the floor by the side of Pargo’s head, causing the 6-foot-1 Hornet to fall hard. Pargo braced his fall with his hands, then walked away from a potential confrontation.

Game 5 is Tuesday at the New Orleans Arena, with tip-off at 6 p.m. The Hornets will be attempting to win their first playoff series since 2002.

"We have to have the same approach and focus," said West, who uses boxing as part of his offseason training. "We have to go in with the attitude that we have to be the aggressor. We have to be the one who throws the first punch."

Hornets Update
STARTERS

Chris Paul: Kudos to the New Orleans fans who coordinated the aforementioned MVP chant for CP in enemy territory. I’m not sure if Paul heard the cheer, but it’s possible it was in the back of his mind when he said on TNT’s postgame show that “it’s a great feeling to go up 3-1, knowing we’re going back to New Orleans, where I feel like we have some of the best fans in the league.” By Paul’s lofty, MVP-caliber standards, Game 4 was an average outing, with him scoring 16 points on 6-for-14 shooting. But he also had eight assists and seven rebounds.

Morris Peterson: My vote for unsung hero of the game. He was big in the Hornets’ weathering an early push by the Mavericks, by scoring eight first-quarter points, including three jump shots and a fast-break layup. He finished with 10 points and two blocked shots in 27 minutes.

Tyson Chandler: A second straight extremely quiet game for the center, who had just two points and five rebounds. Here’s one stat that looks pretty good though: the Hornets were plus-22 with him on the floor, the best plus-minus of anyone.

Peja Stojakovic: He was vintage Peja, drilling several timely perimeter bombs, including a pair of treys in the third quarter. During the middle quarters, which the Hornets dominated by a 53-36 margin, he piled up 14 of his 19 points.

David West: The Mavericks made him work for just about everything he got, but at times he carried the Hornets’ offense on his back. He scored 22 points through three quarters, mixing in his repertoire of post-up moves and face-up jumpers from 15 to 19 feet. Another big moment for a guy who is an All-Star now but still not that recognizable yet to casual fans.

RESERVES

Julian Wright: A spectacular breakout performance by the talented rookie, who finished with 11 points and two steals. In the first half, he made two athletic finishes for baskets on fast breaks. Then in the second half, he had an outstanding sequence in which he hit a corner jumper; stole the ball at the other end from behind against Jason Kidd; and dribbled the ball all the way to the other end and was fouled. “He had some big steals and made some big shots,” CP said of Wright. More praise, from TNT analyst Doug Collins on Wright: “Great minutes tonight.”

Jannero Pargo: Drilled three perimeter shots for seven quick points during New Orleans’ 25-14 second quarter. He finished with 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting. The 6-foot-1 guard also pulled down some tough defensive rebounds in the paint, totaling six caroms. You have to love what this guy did in the two games in Dallas this weekend.

Hilton Armstrong: Two points, four fouls and a rebound in 13 minutes. He did have one nice highlight, grabbing an offensive board over a Dallas defender and laying it back in for two points.

Bonzi Wells: He went 1-for-4 for two points, scoring on a nifty reverse layup off a feed from CP. Otherwise, he made a few mistakes with the ball, throwing a long pass too far for Chandler to reach it on a break, then missing a contested dunk that led to a Dallas dunk at the other end.

Ryan Bowen: Subbed in with 3:38 left and the Hornets leading by 19. Two rebounds.



Game 4 key questions (Hornets lead series 2-1)


A few things to watch for in Game 4. TNT is televising the game at 8:30 p.m.:

1) How will the Hornets’ All-Stars bounce back?
It’s been rare for Chris Paul and David West to have subpar games on the same night. I don’t think it’s happened in consecutive games all season. After the duo combined to shoot 10-for-38 in Game 3, it wouldn’t be a shock if they compile solid showings Sunday. If everything else is equal, that could be enough to secure the team’s first win in Dallas since 1998 and take command of the series.

2) Can the Hornets remain focused and ignore the Mavericks’ apparent intent to play more physically?
Most playoff series include some animosity and harsh words exchanged between the teams. This one is approaching the stage where it’s showing up on the court. Was it purely coincidental that after Avery Johnson issued a challenge to his big men to play more aggressively, Mavericks 7-footer Erick Dampier shoved Paul during a fourth-quarter drive to the basket?

From Dirk Nowitzki’s comments about preferring to play the Hornets, to Jerry Stackhouse’s bizarre rant on Dallas radio, the Mavericks don’t seem to be real concerned about provoking the Hornets. New Orleans is a young team. This is the first time the Hornets have been in the playoffs as a group. They need to keep from being distracted from the primary task at hand: eliminating the Mavs and moving on to Round 2.

3) Can the Hornets improve on the boards?
Dallas has outrebounded New Orleans in all three games, including holding a 52-43 edge in Game 3. The combination of the Hornets shooting only 38 percent from the field and getting beaten on the backboards led to a 23-4 Mavericks advantage in fast-break points.

I’m still not sure whether the Hornets should prefer a slow or fast pace in this series. I asked CP before Game 1 that question and he basically said “whatever it takes to win,” so he didn’t have a big preference, either. I think it’s reasonable though to say that in Dallas it’s better to keep a methodical pace. That way the Dallas crowd doesn’t get involved in the game.