So much for the Hornets' lack of playoff experience. Led by David West's (pictured) monster night (38 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, five blocks), and the usual heroics of Chris Paul (22 points, 14 assists), New Orleans played an almost error-free game (just six turnovers to go with 24 assists) Tuesday night while shutting down San Antonio in the second half for another home rout and a pivotal 3-2 series lead.
The Hornets are showing they have a pretty good defense to go with Paul and West. They stifled the Spurs pretty much from the outset in Game 5. The Hornets were aggressive early and late, mixed up the double teams on Tim Duncan (10 points, 5-of-18 shooting), closed out on shooters and made San Antonio's role players disappear. The Spurs managed to stay in the game early by hitting a slew of three-pointers, but they couldn't sustain it in the second half.
The only bright spot for San Antonio is that it once again kept Peja Stojakovic in check. Shadowed again by Bruce Bowen, Stojakovic finished with just nine points (on 3-of-8 shooting). Stojakovic's offensive struggles might be having an effect at the other end of the court as well. After missing one shot late, he allowed the ancient Brent Barry to drive right around him for a bucket.
Besides Stojakovic's woes, the other big concern for New Orleans heading into Thursday night's Game 6 is the status of West and Tyson Chandler. West has been bothered by a stiff back of late, and he could be seen grimacing at times during Tuesday's game. Chandler went down briefly with a bruised left foot in the fourth quarter and had to be helped to the bench. The Hornets need both big men to be at full strength, because they are thin in the frontcourt.
The mission for the Spurs now is simple. They need to get their offense untracked in a hurry and find a way to win the next game on their home court. Then they have to hope their experience comes into play, and that the younger Hornets crack a bit under the pressure of a home Game 7. So far New Orleans has shown no sign of doing so, but it is just about all San Antonio has left at this point.
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