That was a great game -- and one we desperately needed. Not only for the team's standing in the playoff race but also for the fans' psyche. Going into it, things weren't ideal. The team had just stumbled through two losses, the NBA suspended Posey for his impromptu game of four square with a referee, and Peja/Tyson (and a combined $23.9 MM in salary) were out with injuries. For the shorthanded Hornets to get a win against the Spurs, everybody needed to contribute. Someone in the locker room got that memo.
No one was stellar from the field, but the Hornets remained the aggressors and found themselves with 33 free throws by the end of the game. The team made sure they didn't waste those opportunities, shooting 32-33 (97%) from the line.
(More after the jump)
I should quickly mention that Lee had a previous engagement that kept him from attending or watching the game, so he asked me to take care of recap duty. Who am I? I'm Curry. Lee and I have season tickets next to one another. Like Machine and Kobe, we are besty friends. All right, enough of that. Let's get to the recap...
This game was kept close from beginning to end. The Spurs' largest lead was 8, and the Hornets' biggest margin was 7. At no point did either team threaten to run away with it. The close game led to heavy minutes for three of our guys: Chef Paul (42), D West (42), and Sual Bop (40).
As per usual, Chris and David did their thing, combining for 49 points, 23 rebounds, and 10 assists. But -- as I mentioned earlier -- those points weren't the easy kind. The All Stars went an unimpressive 14-36 from the field and had to do a good bit of their damage from the charity stripe. Rasual was flat out off: 1-8 shooting (0-5 from behind the arc). He got his usual shots, coming off screens or camping at the arc. He just couldn't find a rhythm.
Despite his off night, Rasual harassed Roger Mason, Jr into 0-4 shooting. Overall, I was proud of the Hornets' defense, but there were more than a few occasions when Ime Udoka was left all alone at the three point line. Fortunately, it was Ime Udoka, so he missed all five three pointers. Ginobili, too, had several open looks and drilled four three pointers. I can't begrudge the team too much, because when they did decide to play defense, they did a helluva job. The third quarter reminded me of last year's stretch run and playoffs. The Hornets were down four at halftime, and they used some stifling defense to get solid stops and fast break opportunities that resulted in a 25-16 advantage for that quarter. It felt good to see the team play like that again.
The Hornets never relinquished their lead in the fourth quarter, but they did get dangerously close to doing so with 30 seconds left in the game. After intentionally fouling Rasual Butler (who hit both free throws to put the Hornets up 87-80), Ginobili nailed a three and forced Butler into a turnover/foul. When the Spurs got the ball back, Finley hit a three to get the Spurs back within one. This all happened in a span of about 10 seconds. So that sucked. But it did set up one of my favorite moments of the game...
On the final possession and leading by one, the Hornets threw the inbound pass to Chris who broke through two defenders in the backcourt and met Ginobili just past halfcourt. Ginobili immediately moved to foul CP, and Chris -- anticipating the contact -- launched an offbalance shot to give himself three free throws instead of two. Brilliant.
Let's do some bullets to touch on some other details.
- The game was the 20th sellout of the season (18,204 people in attendance). That number matches all of last year's sellouts from the regular season and the playoffs. Way to go, New Orleans.
- Antonio Daniels had a fantastic game. He played more minutes than his usual stint in the second quarter, and he ended the game with 10 points on four shots. His only miss was on a three pointer that I'd still advise he take any day of the week. Coach Scott actually had Daniels on the court with Paul a number of times, and it led to the Hornets' best stretch. I like the two point guard attack. It's worked well in the past (Speedy Claxton, Bobby Jackson, and Jannero Pargo) , and I wish we saw it more often.
- The battle of the power forwards didn't have much head-to-head action, but both players had big nights. D West finished with 23, 16, and 1. Timmy put up 19, 15, and 2.
- Speaking of Timmy, our big guys did a good job limiting him in the second half. The tag team of Armstrong/Marks/Ely only gave up four points to Duncan after the break.
- Eva Longoria was in the house. And she got booed nonstop while on the big screen. The NBA: Where Hate By Association Happens.
- Can't go through an entire recap without mentioning Julian Wright. He had a handful of highlight-worthy plays. Two dunks and a layup come to mind. The first dunk was after an offensive rebound that fell into his lap. The second dunk was a nasty alley-oop from CP. And the layup was also a dish from Chris. CP had some beautiful ball handling to get through three defenders before sending a pass to Ju Ju, who was cutting to the basket from halfcourt.
- On that note, it's tough to describe how spectacular Chris is. There are so many moments where it seems like he has the ball on a string. It just doesn't make sense for him to run through a crowd and emerge still dribbling the basketball. Absolutely amazing game from him. The MVP chants at the end of the game were hard-earned and well-deserved.
That's everything. Thanks for sticking it out to the end.