The play of the game goes to Tyson Chandler, who swatted a Chris Paul miss -- with less than 10 seconds left and the Hornets up three in the fourth quarter -- into the hands of the NBA's best free-throw shooter, Peja Stojakovic. Two free throws, game over. Gee, the Hornets lack of experience really hurt them in this series, didn't it? Game 5 took on a familiar feel early, with New Orleans using a 26-17 second-quarter run to put the Mavericks in a hole it couldn't dig itself out of. Once again, the Hornets dominated the key positions: Chris Paul (24 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds) outplayed Jason Kidd (14 points, nine assists and four boards), David West (25 points and seven rebounds) had the edge over reigning MVP Dirk Nowitzki (22 and 13) and Chandler (10 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks) took it to Erick Dampier (zero points, zero rebounds in 25 minutes ... yes, you read that right). When you sweep those key positional matchups, you're going to win every time. Paul showed me perhaps the one thing I wasn't sure he had: toughness. Highly skilled, Paul has never been in a physical (or any) playoff series before this season. But beyond continuing to take the ball to the basket, Paul never backed down from a challenge. He mixed it up with Jason Terry and Dampier early in the series and stood up to noted tough guy Jerry Stackhouse in Game 5. He also showed he is capable of keeping his cool. When Stackhouse swiped the ball away after the whistle late in the fourth quarter -- possibly to get a reaction from Paul, who along with Stackhouse had already picked up a technical in the first half -- Paul kept his head and allowed the ref to whistle Stackhouse for the ejection. Smart. Paul will face a different kind of challenge against probable second-round opponent San Antonio: speedy Spurs point guard Tony Parker. While Kidd liked to post-up and play physical, Parker will look to use his quickness to get into the paint and either create or utilize his teardrop floater. In four games in the regular season (which the Hornets split with the Spurs), Paul held the edge over Parker, averaging 22.0 points and 9.8 assists to Parker's 19.5 points and 5.5 assists. Classy move by the Mavericks, who stayed on the court to congratulate the Hornets after the final buzzer. Not every team would do that after a disappointing series.
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