In answer to your first question ... I don't know.
I don't know if the Hornets have what it takes to win in San Antonio on Thursday night and make their first Western Conference final. I don't know if they have the maturity to overcome the startling statistic that home teams have won 19-of-20 second-round games to date. I don't know if they can call upon their reserves to overcome what will be a vocal crowd at the AT&T Center, every bit as charged up as -- obvious metaphor alert! --
Of course, we know how that went for the home team.
The Spurs, predictably, will be slight favorites, both because they're the Spurs -- proud, experienced and intent on defending their championship -- and because of this home-court thing. It would be wise, incidentally, if someone in the league office underwent a full review of the playoffs to see if there are trends in officiating that might help explain the overwhelming domination of home teams. I'm not saying there are; I'm just saying it's worth exploring.
To the extent I have a theory about home-team domination, it's this: While we spent the regular season praising the NBA for the number of really good teams that took the floor, particularly in the West, there is no really
The Hornets aren't there yet. But as I see it, they can prevail in San Antonio, where the Spurs have won 11 straight playoff games dating back to last season, if things go well in several of these areas:
• They blitz
• They don't put
• They get maximum effort, and maximum fouls, out of a three-headed defensive approach on
I would expect Duncan to get to the line more anyway since Spurs coach
• Speaking of the third quarter, the Hornets must weather the storm and come out at least even. No matter what happens in the first half in Game 6, Popovich, a master motivator, will spend a few of his intermission moments reminding his team of what happened in the three games in New Orleans, where the Hornets outscored the Spurs in the third quarter by an incredible 93-46. (The Spurs, meanwhile, are plus-16 in the two third quarters at San Antonio.) Just matching San Antonio's intensity in the early minutes of the third would be a huge plus.
Sound easy? Actually, none of it sounds easy, especially in San Antonio. And please remember that I said the Hornets