May 06, 2008
Fast Breaks: Hornets-Spurs
By Chris Mannix
Game 2   Leaders
Hornets lead series 2-0   Points Rebounds Assists
102 84
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
• I'm starting to understand New Orleans' strategy in the postseason: Keep it close in the first half, make adjustments and drop the hammer in the second half. The Hornets have been one of the best second-half teams in the postseason, outscoring Dallas and San Antonio by a combined 381-311 points. It was business as usual in Game 2: trailing by one at halftime, New Orleans opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run (on its way to a 60-41 second half smackdown) that helped put the game out of reach.

• If you want to beat New Orleans, you have to be able to shoot the ball. The Hornets double-team everybody. They send two players at Tony Parker when he drives and they don't hesitate to send an extra defender when the ball comes in the post. They would probably double-team Spurs coach Gregg Popovich if the rules permitted. The advantage to that for the opposing offense is that with good ball movement the doubles generally leads to open looks. But you have to make shots off those looks. Dallas didn't (40.8 percent shooting, including 34.6 percent from three-point range in the first round) and, through two games, San Antonio has followed the Mavericks' lead: the Spurs followed up a 40.8 percent shooting performance in Game 1 with a 42.5 percent encore on Monday.

• Scary thought: New Orleans won despite a pedestrian (10 points on 2-of-11 shooting) performance from All-Star power forward David West.

• John Stockton and Karl Malone are considered one of (if not the) best pick-and-roll combination in league history, and rightfully so. But Chris Paul (pictured) might be the best half of that combination in the league today. Regardless of who is setting the screen (Tyson Chandler, West or Melvin Ely), Paul is masterful at using it and finding the best available offensive option. With Chandler, it's sealing off the guard while eyeballing the lob pass. With West, Paul seems to operate in slow motion coming off the screen while waiting for West's defender to break off him, leaving the sweet-shooting power forward open for an 18-footer. And with Ely, a former Spur who has played significant minutes in this second-round series, Paul generally finds the open area in the lane and takes the shot himself. Stockton and Malone were in a class by themselves but Paul is a one-man weapon with that play.

• Those of you expecting the Hornets to stumble in San Antonio might want to remember that in January the Hornets opened up a 102-78 can of you-know-what on the Spurs on their home floor.

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