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A Perfect Evening, Except For Barkley's Shiny Red Toes

By Michael Erler on May 13, 2008.

Second Round Game 4 vs. New Orleans: Spurs 100, Hornets 80 (2-2)

Well, that was alarmingly easy. I guess my reverse jinx on Chris Paul worked out, huh?

Actually Paul wasn’t too bad, as a scorer. He was 10-16 from the field, after all and had a game high 23 points. The problem was his teammates; his fellow four starters combined for one less bucket than he had by himself. Paul’s problem, on the other hand, was that for the first time he had next to no impact on the game as a facilitator, and that was a major surprise. If he isn’t the best point guard on the floor, the Nooch have NO CHANCE to win. None.

And let’s be clear on this. Sunday night our Tony Parker was decidedly superior to Paul in every facet of the game. He penetrated and finished better, he shot better, he passed better, he defended better, he led better. He looked like a guy who’s played in May and June before and Paul looked like a neophyte. For the first time, it appeared as if pressure, as if the moment, got to Paul. His inner computer short-circuited and his decision making went awry. Paul finished with four turnovers to go along with five assists, and really he was fortunate not to be whistled for a couple more offensive fouls or traveling violations. Really I don’t understand what the zebras are looking at. He’s pretty blatant about using his off arm as a battering ram on drives and on occasion he takes that extra step (or two).

The odd thing about the game is that watching it again, I don’t really feel as if either team played as well defensively as the stats or postgame comments would indicate. The Spurs were the superior team, no doubt, but both teams missed a lot of open shots, especially from three point land. As I predicted, Bowen struggled mightily shooting the ball in Game 4 and we were lucky Blotch stepped up. We were only 8-26 (30%) from downtown and that percentage has to improve a bit if we’re gonna win one of these road games.

Basically I don’t think most of our guys played all that well, and that’s what has me excited and concerned at the same time. We won the game on the backs of Parker, Duncan and Udoka. Manu passed it well, but he wasn’t really all that great at anything else. Finley shot it well, but he left a lot to be desired defensively, especially against Jannero Pargo. Bruce you know about, and the bigs were so-so, not really rebounding or scoring much. I don’t think Oberto did anything special guarding West, the guy just missed a lot of shots, and we threw a few doubles at him that seemed to surprise him.

New Orleans, on the other hand, played terribly. Not one rotation guy played even adequately for them. Paul was below par, the others were miserable. They really couldn’t have played any worse at either end. There aren’t many NBA teams, if any, that they could’ve beaten on Sunday. I guess the only bright side would be that if the world champion Spurs are the team they’re modeling themselves after, this was a positive step, because they’ve got the “98 lb. Weakling Game” concept down pat. Fuckin’ nailed it.

Like I said, I’m both excited and concerned by the way Game 4 unfolded. Excited because despite the blowout, we have a lot of room for improvement. Believe it or not, we left a lot of points out on the court Sunday. Our ball movement, clearly the best part of our team’s performance on Sunday was so dominant that we could’ve cracked 120 points if we shot it better. Bruce will never be more open in his life and Manu missed a couple that he usually makes as well.

What I’m worried about is that the team will rest on its laurels and get over confident. We have to understand that we put a “A-” or at least a solid “B+” out there on Sunday while the Nooch were a “F-.” We’ve got to play as well as we did on Sunday, if not better, just to be in the game late tonight. The Hornets will come out sharper, more competitive, more energetic, and they’ll probably shoot a lot better.

I have a few defensive concerns. For one, the Nooch got a lot of open looks from three, especially when they went small. While I’m not anticipating them going small for large stretches, because it would leave the paint wide open for Tony and Manu, it was glaring, how many shots they got in that alignment. Maybe Scott could take advantage if he leaves Chandler on the floor and takes out West.

Secondly, I fear Pargo, a little. If he plays extended minutes with Paul it would give the Nooch two avenues to run the offense instead of one and they’d become a little less predictable. I think Pargo is a much more dangerous player than Peterson and I’m surprised Scott hasn’t started him yet. He might in Game 5.

And last but not least, Bonzi still worries me a little. Sure, Ime did a great job on him, but what if Scott starts him instead of Peterson? Then they post up Manu right away and try to crash the boards. That scenario could work out against us.

As for defensive adjustments, I don’t know what else they can do. They’re already doing everything they can to make us beat them with Bruce, Fin, Ime and Manu shooting outside. We have guys that can make open shots, so you take what you can get there. And Tim is healthier and more decisive now, so that helps.

The Spurs have done what I’d hoped. They’ve put New Orleans on their heals and their guys are thinking now instead of acting. Let’s see how that affects them at home.

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