For the first time in a long while, it's good to be a Hornets fan. I don't mean that sarcastically, even in the slightest.
I mean, think about it. Today was perfect in so many ways. Tyson Chandler played a terrific, uninjured first half, throwing down a few lobs, and playing high quality defense on Tim Duncan. The Hornets proved that they could easily match up with the Spurs, tossing away a win on the road via the foul line (where they've routinely dominated, thus rendering it moot as a concern). The Mavericks' win and the Hornets' loss ensures that New Orleans will face Denver in the first round. There will be much more analysis on that in the near future, but suffice it to say that Denver is easily the best matchup among Houston, Denver, and Portland. If we were to advance, we'd face off against San Antonio (rematch of last year, minus Ginobili) or Dallas (enough said).
Tyson looks healthy, the bracket looks beautiful, the Hornets lost a game they "won." Good day.
There are many more positives.
Let's start with James Posey. In a word, his help defense was brilliant. His powerful weakside swipe of Tim Duncan is the play that stands out, but time and time again, he committed smart fouls in help or aided West/Ely from the secondary and forced passes. I remember numerous Celtics fans and analysts commenting that Posey's real strength was not one-on-one defense, but rather help defense. For the first two months of the season, we saw him play terrific man D, contrary to that assessment. Then he fell off the face of the planet. Now he's back and ready to contribute again; his contributions may come in a different form, but with Butler playing top scorers straight up, Posey's secondary D can still prove crucial.
David West was on top of his game. If there were any questions about lingering issues with his back and ankkle, they've been answered. The elevation he got in his "clinching" jump shot late in the 4th was as good as he's gotten all year. Of course, Chris Paul was Chris Paul. 26 pts, 14 asts, 7 rbs, and 1 turnover is a routine line for only one man in the league.
I might be the only person who thinks this, but I love Byron's insertion of Ely into the lineup. Sure, he comes up with some of the most hideous offensive sequences this side of Eddy Curry. But he has tremendous footwork on defense, and has played post players to a stand still in the past. He picked up some cheap fouls on Tim Duncan, but he also had a hand in forcing Tim Duncan towards weakside defense and thus, 4 turnovers. I'm not sure what Hilton's future is with the team, but I would really love to see an Ely/Chandler front court again when West is resting. It worked well in the early parts of the second quarter tonight.
- One negative with Chandler was the boards. He simply wasn't elevating enough to challenge on the offensive glass. Part of that was because he only starting "trying" on his jumps, midway through the second quarter. This may have been something the coaching staff implemented, to keep away from further injury. Still, I'm somewhat apprehensive about his rebounding ability.
- Tony Parker is completely unguardable when he has the jumper going. No shame in giving up 29/6 to him. What stings is not forcing him into more turnovers. There were quite a few instances where he went up in the air before tossing ridiculous passes to teammates. The passing lanes definitely weren't played as well as they could have been.
- I wasn't expecting it, but there was a decidedly non-playoff feel to this game. It's somewhat odd, since these are two playoff teams one game before the playoffs. Yet there was a decidedly "regular season" feel to the proceedings. Perhaps both teams recognized that they'd have to go through at least one round for a playoff re-match to occur.
ITS THE PLAYOFFS!!!!!