That lack of playoff experience really hurt Chris Paul, didn't it? Paul scored 35 points and dished out 10 assists in his playoff debut and was the catalyst for the Hornets' furious second-half comeback, in which they outscored the Mavericks 64-40.
"Pretty damn good," said Hornets coach Byron Scott of Paul. "[He] was impressive, especially in the second half. Before we started the half, I told him MVP candidates can be MVP's when [games] like this are up in the air. You got to go out there and impose your will."
He's a tough kid. He wants to compete," added Dirk Nowitzki. "He was phenomenal. He was getting in and out of the lane, shooting those floaters; He's very good at that."
Dallas' focus now turns to devising a better way to stop Paul, or at least to slow him down. The Mavericks stuck with the same game plan against Paul that they implemented in the regular-season finale last Wednesday, rushing him with two defenders when he crossed the half-court line. But unlike Wednesday, Paul was frequently able to split the double-teams. Dallas also failed to make Paul expend any energy on defense, rarely posting up the bigger Jason Kidd on offense.
"When we get single coverage on him or have some of our bigger guys on him, we have to make things much tougher on him than we did," said Mavericks coach Avery Johnson. "When we trap him, we can't let him out of the traps. I thought our traps were more effective [on Wednesday] because we squeezed him a lot more. You can't give him any daylight. I thought from an offensive standpoint, we didn't attack him nearly as much as we had in the past."
"The stuff that we did [on Paul] was alright," said Nowitzki. "He's so crafty with the ball. He beat our double-teams and that opens up the court for their shooters and him in the lane. We'll come up with something in the next couple of days and hopefully execute the game plan better."
Looks like this series won't be lacking for physical play. Nowitzki and David West got into it in the second half after an errant Nowitzki elbow caught West in the mouth, splitting his lip. "Two adults talking," said West, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "Things happen through the course of the game." "Every playoff game is a little nippy here and there," Nowitzki said. "Guys are playing extra hard. It sounds pretty stupid [but] every possession counts. Guys bump each other, you run into some elbows here and there. I don't think [what happened] was anything special." The Mavericks are taking advantage of the two days off between Games 1 and 2. Dallas flew home after game one and will return to New Orleans on Monday. How serious is Paul taking his first playoff series? Paul, along with inactive forward Chris Andersen, was on the floor shooting 2½ hours before the opening tip. And he wasn't missing either. Much has been made about the Hornets "lack of experience" in the postseason. But just for the record, nine of the 14 players on the New Orleans roster have played in the postseason, a list highlighted by Peja Stojakovic's 59 games.
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