Now we'll find out what the Hornets are really made of. They not only must find a way to beat the defending champs in Monday night's Game 7, but they might have to do it with star forward David West (injured back) at less than 100 percent. It's a major challenge, but New Orleans has been proving the skeptics wrong all playoffs. Plus, they've still got Chris Paul (right) and he showed even in defeat Thursday night that he is a magician.
Once again, the third quarter proved pivotal. The Spurs outscored the Hornets 20-12 to turn a seven-point halftime lead into a 15-point margin. Paul and West each picked up two fouls relatively early, giving them four for the game. With New Orleans' two best players unable to go full throttle, the Spurs capitalized. Meanwhile, the Hornets became a bit unglued, with West picking up a technical for complaining to the refs. The way New Orleans has reacted to some of the calls in this series does not speak well for their ability to stay focused in a Game 7.
Ime Udoka provided a huge and unlikely spark for San Antonio. The reserve forward hit three big shots in the first quarter to help the Spurs build a 36-24 lead. In the third quarter he returned to hit a big three, and then made the play of the game when he blocked Jannero Pargo to set up a transition opportunity that resulted in a Tim Duncan layup for a 78-63 edge. But the question for San Antonio is can it get performances like that from its bench players in New Orleans?
West injured his back when he was fouled hard by Robert Horry while backpedaling into the post. Horry, perhaps aware of West's back troubles, appeared to give him a little extra shot. Last year it was Horry's cheap shot on Steve Nash that led to the suspensions and helped turn around that series for his team. Apparently Horry is still Big Shot Rob -- even if he's not putting the ball through the net anymore.
The Hornets catch something of a break in that there will be three full days off before Monday's Game 7, instead of just one or two. It should give West some extra time to get treatment for his back. On the other hand, it also gives the Hornets another day to feel the pressure.
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