Game 2 recap: Hornets 102, Spurs 84

Monday, May 5, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

(Hornets lead series 2-0) * Postgame notes, quotes in Hornets.com's Courtside Live blog

Let’s be honest: After a 19-point Hornets victory in Game 1 against the defending NBA champions, everyone expected Game 2 to be a much more tightly-contested affair than the opener. San Antonio hasn’t won four titles since 1999 without responding well to poor playoff games repeatedly in the past.

The bounceback performance anticipated from the Spurs never materialized. In fact, New Orleans’ Game 2 victory may have been even more impressive than its initial win over San Antonio.

Three days after his 30-point eruption, Hornets postseason leading scorer David West went 2-for-11 and was held to 10 points. Fellow frontcourt cog Tyson Chandler was limited to five points and 11 rebounds in only 28 minutes due to persistent foul trouble. The Hornets’ bench went a collective 8-for-24 from the field. All this from the team that WON by 18 points.

Chris Paul was spectacular with a 30-point, 12-assist performance, while Peja Stojakovic wasn’t too far back in the Game 2 MVP discussion, piling up 25 points, including 5-for-7 three-point shooting. That pair was enough for the Hornets to overcome a halftime deficit for a second straight game – this time the hole was only one point. New Orleans outscored San Antonio 60-41 in the second half, three days after its 56-33 latter-half advantage.

“I think they seemed to get stronger in the second half,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the Hornets’ dominance after intermission. “We went the opposite way.”

New Orleans’ second straight stellar defensive performance was highlighted by holding the Spurs’ “Big Three” of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to 42 points on 15-for-35 shooting. There was a report that Duncan had been battling the flu over the past couple days, but neither Popovich nor Duncan would confirm it.

“We’re fine,” Popovich said, waving off the rumor that Duncan was not 100 percent. “No injuries, no problems – except the two losses. No excuses.”

The teams will have two full days off before playing Game 3 in San Antonio on Thursday (8:30 p.m. Central time). The Hornets lost Game 3 of the Dallas series, but they have already won in San Antonio during the regular season, pounding the Spurs by 24 in January.

“We know we can win there,” West said. “We’re going to go in there and play like we don’t have anything to lose, and try to get one (win).”

Hornets Update

STARTERS

Chris Paul
: He outscored his fellow All-Star-caliber player, Tony Parker, 30-11. He was in attack mode on offense, looking for his shot more often. “(David) West and Coach were getting on me, because I passed up a lot of open shots in Game 1,” Paul said. “Tonight I knew when I got into the lane, the only way for me to open it up for (teammates) was to be aggressive. I tried to score as much as possible.”

Morris Peterson: He’s taken some heat all season for his scoring and shooting numbers and the fact that he doesn’t play even half of some games despite being a starter. But this free-agent pickup is paying off nicely at exactly the right time. After a 5-for-5 outing in Game 2, he has made eight of 10 shots in the series. His seven quick points early in the third quarter Tuesday seemed to kick-start the Hornets’ 36-18 game-turning edge in that period.

Peja Stojakovic: He’s had a great 10-year NBA career, but is playing so well right now that you have to say this is the best he’s ever performed in the playoffs. He looks like he’s turned back the clock about five years. His decisiveness on three-point attempts has been there all postseason, resulting in 24-for-39 shooting from beyond the arc. How much is 62 percent shooting from three-point range in the playoffs worth? “He really is opening up the court for us,” Paul said of the threat Stojakovic poses for defenses.

David West: He had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in Game 2, but it was a major struggle offensively. He seemed out of rhythm, making a first-quarter jumper and scoring on a fourth-quarter post-up for his two buckets. San Antonio probably thought if it could hold West to just 10 points that it would go a long way toward stifling New Orleans, but Paul and Stojakovic more than picked up the slack.

Tyson Chandler: He didn’t make a huge impact because he had to come out of the game a couple times due to fouls. On the plus side, he threw down a back-breaking alley oop dunk over Duncan in the fourth quarter. Chandler also had two emphatic rejections of driving Parker layup attempts, part of Parker’s 5-for-14 shooting night. Parker didn’t seem to have much reason for concern in Game 1 when he went to the rim, but maybe Chandler gave him something to think about with those two blocks.

RESERVES:

Julian Wright
: Six points and three rebounds in 13 minutes and was pretty solid. He did go 2-for-7 from the field. Spurs defenders barely looked in his direction when Wright had the ball at the three-point stripe, so he fired four of them, making two. Wright doesn’t have much of a rep for outside shooting, so it’s probably not very prominent in other teams’ scouting reports, but he has gone 12-for-31 there this season, including playoffs (coincidentally, that’s exactly what the Spurs shot as a team from three-point range in Game 1).

Melvin Ely: Nice job defensively in the low post again against Duncan. Ely has responded well in this series after not playing in quite awhile. “I’ve been missing in action for probably like a month in a half,” Ely said good-naturedly (by the way, Ely says pretty much everything good-naturedly). “My number was called. I had to be ready.” He also scored on a hook shot over Duncan in the third quarter.

Jannero Pargo: Deposited two mid-range jumpers in the second quarter, his two buckets during a 2-for-6 shooting game.

Bonzi Wells: Somewhat uneventful night in 14 minutes of action. Went 1-for-6 from field, scoring on a fast-break dunk. Also had three defensive rebounds.

Mike James: Appeared in his first playoff game of 2008 and immediately drained two outside shots for five points, over final 2:23 of game.

Ryan Bowen: Played final 2:23 after Hornets had built a 97-76 lead.

Hilton Armstrong: Same as Bowen.



Game 2 key questions (Hornets lead series 1-0)


People always talk about the importance of making adjustments during the NBA playoffs. San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich is one of the best in the business at altering his game plan, one reason why his career playoff record is 96-53, the second-best mark of all time.

A few things to watch for in Game 2, as the Spurs try to reverse the outcome following a 19-point defeat:

1) How will Tim Duncan respond after an awful opening game?
New Orleans deserved considerable credit for stifling the Spurs’ All-Star power forward by throwing double-teams at him Saturday, but simply put, he also played a very poor game. Most of the time, you could quadruple-team the guy and he’d end up with better numbers by game’s end than his ugly line of five points, three rebounds and two assists in 37 minutes. If you think about it, the latter of those three stats is pretty confounding – the attention he drew should’ve led to more baskets for teammates. Still, he’s been one of the most consistent players in the NBA for over a decade. No one would be surprised if he comes back with a dominant performance. Excluding games in which he was injured, he was not held to single-digit points in consecutive outings all season.

2) What alterations do the Spurs attempt on defense?
Job No. 1 has to be figuring out how to slow down David West (30 points in Game 1, team-leading 23.8 scoring average in 2008 playoffs). After the 6-foot-9, 240-pound power forward beat the Spurs in a number of ways Saturday, there has been plenty of ideas floated about what they can change in Game 2.

One option would be to assign Duncan more frequently to West, which the Spurs might try. Obviously though, that adds to the risk of Duncan getting in foul trouble. Fox Sports writer Charley Rosen mentioned putting Bruce Bowen on West, but Bowen is four inches shorter and would give up 40 pounds on the low block. We'll see. Other possibilities: more zone defense from the Spurs. They also may back off Chris Paul more and hope he misses jumpers. Considering San Antonio gave up 16 offensive rebounds, relying on zone defense could be dangerous because it’s much more difficult to determine box-out assignments in a zone D than in man-to-man.

3) What should we expect from Chris Paul tonight?
You know you’re having a phenomenal year when a 17-point, 13-assist game leads people to ask, “What went wrong?” No one will be surprised if he “bounces back” with a huge performance, in order to get an early start on celebrating his 23rd birthday Tuesday.

4) Who wins the energy department?
Byron Scott was upset after the Spurs outhustled the Hornets on their home floor during the first 24 minutes of Game 1. Hornets players have talked about how they know they are the underdog in this series, and that to knock off the defending champions, they’re going to have to outwork the Spurs. What goes unsaid is that regardless of that, New Orleans should hold the upper hand in this category. The Hornets are younger and more athletic than the Spurs. Every New Orleans starter is younger than their San Antonio counterpart by at least three years (at center, Tyson Chandler is 10 years younger than Kurt Thomas).