The Hive Five: Game Eighty-Three

WORDS: || AP (through NBA.com) || Five Observations ||

NUMBERS: || Box Score || Shot Chart || Play-by-Play ||

VIDEOS: || ESPN || NBA.com || Yahoo! ||

That thud you hear? Yeah, that’s the “playoff experience” guys closing their mouths.

“Yo, don’t call me young and inexperienced! Ya seen this beard?”

Too bad the MVP votes are already in- Chris Paul’s surgical dissection of Jason Kidd was just unfair. 35 points, 10 assists, 4 steals, and 1 turnover? That’s some kind of playoff debut. It was a huge relief to see CP hit so many jumpers after a horrific run of things down the stretch. You really can’t praise the guy enough; with Dallas threatening to pull away and steal home-court advantage, the little man put the team on his shoulders, personally authored a 7-0 run, and allowed the crowd to be a huge factor. With runner after runner, and dime after dime, CP was THE reason New Orleans won this game. Had the Hornets’ jumpers been dropping at a normal rate, Paul would have easily finished with 15+ assists. Both he and David West stepped up after slow starts and covered for the foul trouble of playoff veteran Peja Stojakovic. Tyson Chandler yanked down rebound after rebound. But other than CP’s performance, the real story of this game was defense. After giving up 52 points on an assortment of layups, dunks, and open J’s in the first half, New Orleans locked it down in quarters 3 and 4. The D forced two shot clock violations, made Josh Howard a total non-factor, and strongly contested every jumper. Emulate that model for the rest of the series, and the Hornets should be fine.

As I predicted earlier, Dirk Nowitzki came out firing away and was a central piece of his team’s offense. People malign his driving ability all the time, but he made both West and Chandler look silly on a couple of takes. That’s what pleases me most about this game- we were handed a 31 point night by Dirk (though he faded down the stretch), and a near triple double by J-Kidd, and we still won by double digits. Dirk refusing to drive in the 4th was beneficial, but you have to credit Chandler for much of that. The frustration level of the Mavs really took me by surprise. I would’ve expected much more frustration on the part of the Hornets and much less for the Mavs- for Dallas, this was just the first game on the road. Win Tuesday, and they’d still go home with a split. Instead, they showed ample frustration; Dirk’s hard but pointless foul on Paul at half-court attested to that.

Dirk also made his case tonight to join the Anderson Varejao and Manu Ginobili led pantheon of floppers. I’ll be the first to say that Chandler made a stupid decision in pushing Nowitzki (in the 3rd). The shove could’ve been classified a flagrant which would have potentially serious implications. But Dirk pulling off a pirouette while sliding backwards from the 3-point line to the key? Even his teammate Eddie Jones was laughing at that one. By my (highly unbiased) count, Herr Dirk fell to the ground after three clean closeouts on jumpers. I’m just glad he didn’t pick up a cheap foul on West or Chandler with those falls; basically, I’m just glad Leon Wood wasn’t around.

I was pretty disappointed with the Hornets’ approach in the first half- you can blame jump-shots not dropping all you want, but the Hornets just had no aggression on offense. Much of the blame for that has to be put on Byron Scott. When an inexperienced team like the Hornets meets up with playoff level defensive intensity, the natural tendency is to settle for jumpers. It’s up to a coach to convince his players that won’t work, and that the game can’t be won that way. The Mavericks knocked home 16 free throws in the first two quarters, more than doubling the Hornets’ FT attempts, and 8 times more than Hornets’ free throws made. Dirk and David West had comparable first halves from the floor (4 for 11 versus 5 for 12), but again, the difference was at the line. Of course I’m more than willing to pardon Byron- what the hell did he say in the locker room at halftime and how can we find tape of that?

Bonzi Wells single-handedly kept the bench afloat tonight. Can you imagine if we had trotted Bobby Jackson out there for this game? I love B-Jax, but he’s a financially challenged man’s Jason Terry, and couldn’t have impacted the game much. Wells played 21 huge minutes, picking up 8 points with 5 boards, and bringing a lot of physicality to the contest. He’s the one guy I can forgive for any number of fouls (he had 5 tonight) because he gets his money’s worth; he sends the opposition a message with each personal. It seems like I switch my “do we resign Bonzi or not” thought process after every game, and tonight is no different. I’m just torn on him- is he valuable enough to bring back (keeping in mind we’ll probably need to overpay him to get his services) or do we roll the dice on Julian Wright? I’d like to give some props to Hilton Armstrong for 7 active minutes, but also moan about/laugh at Jannero Pargo. Seriously, what the hell happened to his shot?

Pace

Eff

eFG

FT/FG

OREB%

TOr

DAL

90.0

102.2

37.8%

42.3

34.7

16.7

NOR

115.6

48.9%

20.5

32.6

8.9

1. Shooting () Again, it was all about Dallas’ hideous eFG%. The Mavs cruised along in the first half before being stifled in the second. The disparity between the two halves was pretty extreme- after being outscored 52-40, the Hornets fired back a 64-40 half. It’s amazing that Peja went 4-8 from downtown in this game, considering his foul trouble and consequent bench time.

2. Turnovers () How does a guy control the ball on literally every possession, dish 10 assists, and finish with just 1 turnover? Simpy amazing. Pargo had a couple of ugly passes, but to other than that, the outstanding ball control of the regular season carried over to the playoffs. Jason Kidd, on the other hand, finished with 4 turnovers, as did Josh Howard. Those two had as many turnovers as every Hornet combined.

3. Offensive Rebounding (X) Tyson was an absolute monster, but this wasn’t our greatest game on the defensive glass. Dallas pounded the offensive glass (especially in the first half) which allowed them to compensate for the horrible shooting. Dirk had more OREB’s than David West, and with their confrontation in the 4th, that could be a matchup to watch closely the rest of the series.

4. Free Throws (X) As I mentioned earlier, Dallas rocked us FT-wise. Obviously, we stepped up our own free throw pace in the second half, but Dallas got better in quarters 3 and 4 too. If there’s one thing New Orleans needs to fix for Game 2, it’s fouling. The Hornets fouled fewer times per game (pace adjusted) than any team in the NBA in the regular season, and that’s one of our great advantages defensively. The Hornets may have trouble preventing penetration, but by not fouling, they avoid having opponents rack up points at the line. Tonight we fouled at a rate double that of the Utah Jazz, the most foul prone team in the league. The disparity in foul shots can’t be chalked up to poor officiating- New Orleans simply made too much contact with ball carriers.

5. Pace (90) While the final pace hovered around both teams’ season averages, Dallas surprised me with their up-tempo game in the first half. Jason Kidd tried to ignite a fast break after every rebound, and for the most part he was successful. It’ll be interesting to see if Byron Scott decides to shy away from offensive rebounding in favor of transition defense in Game 2. My guess is that he won’t- offensive rebounding helped us too much down the stretch for us to abandon it. All in all, this was a thrilling way to begin our return to the playoffs. Game 1 was great for the city of New Orleans, and will go a long way in calming the “jitters” Byron Scott discussed during the game. But at the end of the day, Game 1 is just that- one game. Hopefully the guys take that to heart, and come out even better on Tuesday.

WORDS: || AP (through NBA.com) || Five Observations ||

NUMBERS: || Box Score || Shot Chart || Play-by-Play ||

VIDEOS: || ESPN || NBA.com || Yahoo! ||

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3 Responses

  1. Hornets Finals FTW!

  2. Great recap, love the new look. Good luck to Hornets in this series.

  3. With Chris splitting the traps much easier than Wednesday and the Hornets doubling Dirk a lot less, among other things, you have to believe more and more that the Hornets were using the final regular season game to confuse the Mavs and test out a few different things.

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