San Antonio 83 (15-9) | New Orleans 90 (15-7)
Every Hornet fan who bleeds purple and
teal creole blue remembers May 19, 2008. And every one of us was out for blood tonight.
While we may not have drawn blood, we did pull off a solid victory that was punctuated (early on) by Chris Paul passing Alvin Robertson (who, coincidentally, was a Spur) on the consecutive games with a steal record. Paul struggled some early, and you've got to figure that the record weighed heavy on his mind. After he nabbed #106, you could see him ease up and settle into his game. After that he and a very hot-handed David West picked the Spurs apart
Last March the Hornet fans started a tradition of booing the San Antonio on every one of their possessions after a handful of questionable calls favoring the flop-tastic Spurs. The result: a 24-8 fourth quarter in which the Bees shut down their opponents in every conceivable way.
That tradition continued through the 08 playoffs (with inconsistent results), but tonight it paid off in spades as the Hornets pulled off a come from behind victory against their beloved rivals. The amazing part is that the Hornets did not win a single quarter until the fourth, when they pulled off a 27-13 run to seal the deal.
How did this miracle comeback occur without a sharp shooting Peja on the court? For starters, Chris put up a great line we've come to take for granted: 19 points, 12 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals. David went 21 and 6, and Tyson went 10 and 11 with 4 blocks thrown in for good measure. So, you could credit our starters, but I think the real story comes from 2 other facets of our game:
- Front Court Defense: We held Tim Duncan and Matt Bonner (their starting PF and C) to a combined 28% shooting from the floor (8 for 29). We also won the offensive and defensive rebounding battle pretty handily.
- Bench Play: Our bench didn't suck. They didn't give up huge runs, and (for the most part) held the margin to a managable figure. They weren't spectacular (I'm talking to you, Sean Marks), but for the first time this season they looked capable of protecting a lead... or at least keeping us in the game.
That reminds me: remember that time I said I was going to give Mike James 20 games before doing post giving a fair and balanced evaluation of his play? Well, here it is in shorthand: ANTONIO DANIELS! WOOHOO!
Y'all be good. See you Saturday.
Couple of observations before I leave you:
- Peja was out with back spasms. But no one told us. It wasn't until about halfway through the first that we realized Peja wasn't on the bench and Byron's wacky plan to start Devin Brown was born of necessity, not strategy.
- I try not to rip on the officials too much since A) they usually end up doing pretty well to balance calls and B) they've forgotten more about the rules of basketball than I'll ever know. That having been said, the refs missed A LOT of moving screens tonight. It's one thing if they call a few and miss a few; that's just how sports work. But my group of friends and I counted at least 4 (four!) from the Spurs (primarily from Timmy D and Matt Bonner), and yet a whistle was never blown. They were never once called for it. My buddy Mike would just reiterate that "that's part of the game," but there's no excuse for the refs to miss calling something that was happening so regularly throughout the entire game.
- Why are we playing Marks over Ely? Or even JuJu? Anyone? As this year's version of Ryan "Hustle" Bowen, Marks looked sluggish in transition and put up a goose egg in every statistical category except for personal fouls (2) in his 9 minutes of action.
- Matt Bonner was awful tonight. Sure, he finished with 7 points and 7 rebounds, but he went 3 (three!) for 15 from the field. I seriously advocated that our defensive strategy against him should have been to just leave him wide open and double Parker, Ginobili, or Duncan. Let him take all the open shots he wants. Pop must be livid with his performance.
- Got to really hand it to the crowd tonight. They stepped up, waved their gold towels, and screamed until they were (creole) blue in the face. Glad to see people showing the love this team deserves.
- The dagger in tonight's game did not come in the form of a shot. Instead, within the final minute of the game, Chris got aggressive on D and forced a jump ball against Manu. He then went on to make good ole Manu look silly, winning the jump ball and sealing the deal for a Hornet W.
- Let the record state: with 17 seconds to play in the fourth, the arena witnessed its first (of many) MVP! chant of the season. Dammit, I love Chris Paul!
Composed to: Mantronix's "Bassline" over and over again. I wish I was kidding.
Photo courtesy of espn.com