Hopefully you all have enjoyed the numerous articles published about the Hornets lately- getting into the playoffs has a way of causing that. So far I’ve been previewing this first round series from a New Orleans perspective, and I thought it’d be cool to get the other side’s view as well. Throughout the year, I talked to various bloggers about matchups, but for this series I was lucky enough to talk to Bob Sturm of Dallas Sports Radio 1310, The Ticket. Many thanks to him, and good luck to the Hornets today!
At the Hive: How seriously is Mavs Nation taking the Hornets? This is, after all, a matchup between a team that was in the Finals 2 years ago and a team that has never made the playoffs in the West. Are the Hornets actually the “favorites” as Jason Kidd keeps saying?
Bob: I think they are taking everything and everyone quite seriously right now. This team has a bit of a wounded psyche right now. It is more carry over from the Warriors and Heat series than it might be Hornets fear, but I think everyone around here greatly respects the play of the Hornets this season. I believe Chris Paul is no secret amongst Mavericks fans, and given the torching that Tony Parker, Mike Bibby, Baron Davis, and of Steve Nash have all administered over the years in the playoffs, the Mavericks fear the unstoppable point guard.
At the Hive: In your experience watching the Mavs, what one thing changes most different in the playoffs compared to the regular season?
Bob: The overall defensive concentration generally is elevated. The number of easy baskets are significantly lower, unless you consider the trouncing in Oakland. Otherwise, it is far more of the pick and roll offense of Terry and Dirk for a big part of crunch time.
At the Hive: Who has more to lose (or gain) this series: Avery Johnson or Mark Cuban?
Bob: Avery Johnson could and perhaps should lose his job if they are bounced again in the first round. Mark Cuban will just return to his drawing board and rerack. For this team to wet the bed in the Finals, followed by consecutive first round exits may be the end of Avery’s run here.
At the Hive: Jason Kidd took a long time to get acclimated to his new team. Is the adjustment period over and are the Mavs using him optimally? Or are there any kinks still to be worked out in the first round?
Bob: I wouldn’t say they are using him optimally, because I don’t see anything vaguely resembling what the New Jersey Nets ran offensively. Too many times the offense becomes a stagnant “spot up around the arc” offense. But, there is no question that the team is running more smoothly now than a few weeks ago. They appear to have some level of swagger back after almost having their back broken during that horrendous Easter week.
At the Hive: Finally… prediction time. I won’t ask you to predict a winner but instead: which player has, statistically speaking, the best series? Which star player (and there are quite a few in Kidd, Paul, Nowitzki, West, Howard, etc.) is most likely to be taken away by good defense?
Bob: I would think Paul will dominate numbers-wise. That is not a great matchup for the Mavs, but I just wonder if that translates into wins. I suspect that Dirk will play with far more resolve after having his reputation greatly soiled against Golden State. But, I also am quite aware that the Hornets have the personnel to trouble Dirk.
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