Hornets center Tyson Chandler didn't want to call the strategy on Tim Duncan(right) an all-out double-team. "Myself and Melvin [Ely], when he was in there, played Tim more or less straight up," said Chandler. "But we always had another player in the area to keep Tim from moving freely. So it was kind of a double-team." Whatever it was, it worked. The Spurs' star had one of the worst games of his career with just five points on 1-of-9 shooting and only three rebounds. Duncan really didn't get his first clean look until 6:17 left when Ely briefly left him alone on the right block and fouled him. In keeping with his awful night, Duncan missed both free throws.
Perhaps the stage was set early when Chandler had eight first-quarter rebounds. (He finished with 15.) The Spurs had dominated the hustle points in their first-round series against Phoenix, but the younger Hornets may have that advantage in this series. Duncan does not unduly force shots, which New Orleans was counting on. But they're not counting on it in Game 2. "After a game like that," said Chandler, "Tim is going to come out firing."
The contributions of Jannero Pargo won't show up much in the boxscore -- he finished Game 1 with just two points and five assists. Certainly he wasn't as important as forward David West, who had 30 points and who has become somewhat of a Spurs killer, But Pargo's play was crucial and must continue to be if the Hornets are to hold onto their advantage throughout the series. The backup guard makes his presence felt in two major ways. First, when he's in the game with Chris Paul, he usually brings the ball upcourt, relieving Paul of the drudgery of fighting ace Spurs' defender Bruce Bowen all the way up the court. He's not Paul's equal as a penetrator or jump shooter -- not many are -- but he is adept at getting New Orleans into its offense, and his ball-handling enables Paul to come off screens for jumpers and drives. "That's the plan," says Pargo. "Trying to get into the offense with Bowen on you the whole game can wear you out." Just as importantly, Pargo can play the speedy Tony Parker on the defensive end. For long stretches of the second half, Paul was able to conserve energy by playing Bowen and Brent Barry, not the major threats in San Antonio's offense.
We're only one game into the second round and we've already had a sweep. A big one. A between-quarters show gone terribly wrong forced a 20-minute delay before the start of the second period, so dozens of team and arena employees could wipe a thick layer of ash off the court. It had settled there after an extinguisher was used to put out the fire on a ring through which Hugo the Hornet, the team's mascot, had leaped to dunk a basketball.
So, let's recap. The game didn't begin until 10:10 p.m. in the Eastern time zone because of the TV schedule. Then we have a stunt that's done only once a year that involves fire inside of an arena. (Any chance that's going to go wrong?) Then we a 20-minute delay, followed by a two-minute warmup period, as thousands of viewers clicked off and just went to bed. The good news? Inside of New Orleans Arena near the end of the sweepathon, the public address announcer finally ran out of idiotic verbiage to yell into his microphone, and the crowd had to settle for cacophonous music.
Perhaps the bizarre invocation offered before each Hornets home game -- Saturday night's included a blessing for Hornets owner George Shinn for allowing pregame prayers -- could include a call for more wet mops in the arena.
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