Spurs best Hornets, ticket to LA
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
With a 91-82 victory, the San Antonio Spurs have finally put away the pesky Hornets in New Orleans for Game 7. It took 7 games and three tough losses in New Orleans for the champion Spurs to regain form on the road to steal a game. Ultimately, they played like this in the other games too but folded in the third quarter for whatever reason. In game 7 tonight those lapses were not there, and despite shooting a terrible percentage the Spurs managed to control the game and certainly the tempo.
Key reserves were contributing for the Spurs as well. Ime Udoka, Michael Finley and Big Shot Bob Horry all hit 2 three pointers, and they were at key times. Bruce Bowen missed a few open three pointers but managed to knock down two of them. He was also playing lock down defense on Peja Stojakovic (3-11 from the floor, 1-5 from threes).
Throughout the series the Hornets managed to hit threes at home in transition. The Spurs did a terrific job of transition defense and hounding players like Stojakovic before shots got off. Jannero Pargo had a few open looks and missed but he managed to at least his 2 out of his 6 three pointers. But the 4th quarter showed the problems for New Orleans. The offense looked out of sync, CP3 could not create shots at will like he could in past games, and Jannero Pargo was chucking up a ton of shots. He hit some of them but they were ill advised and not high percentage. That said without his offense in the late 4th the NO Hornets would not have been even close to the Spurs.
New Orleans was playing from behind all game and their inability to hit shots was troublesome and had not been seen at home yet this playoffs. Could the pressure and inexperience finally have caught up to them in this pressure-packed game 7 situation? It is likely but playing a playoff stalwart like the San Antonio Spurs adds to this.
Heading into the 2008-2009 season, few teams have a brighter future than the New Orleans Hornets. Many believe Chris Paul was the best player this year with his ridiculous assist totals and his efficient running of that offense. New Orleans is lacking in the bench with only 6 total players in Game 7 logging more than 5 minutes. Also, only Chris Paul and David West can create shots. This usually isn't a problem because Chris Paul can seemingly always create shots but even he runs into problems when double teamed and the ball is forced out of his hands.
Heading forward we have the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday in Los Angeles. A classic matchup between two teams that have matched up 6 times in the past 10 years in the playoffs (LA winning 4 times SA winning twice). But they have not played recently so the makeup of the teams is completely different. The Lakers are going to have issues inside without Andrew Bynum. Pau Gasol has been a solid addition to make the offense flow and have good help defense, but he is too thin to handle Duncan alone. Bynum would have provided that beef but the Lakers must make do. Home court has proven to be important in these playoffs but at the same time the Spurs just took a Game 7 away from home. How about the MVP Kobe Bryant? The Spurs have always brought out the worst in him and the best in him at the same time.