AtTheHive’s NOH-DAL Game One Wrap-up
That thud you hear? Yeah, that’s the “playoff experience” guys closing their mouths.
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. And 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- New Orleans was handed a 31 point night by Dirk (though he faded down the stretch), and a near triple double by J-Kidd, and 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 abundant frustration; Dirk’s hard but pointless foul on Paul at half-court attested to that.
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 I find tape of that?
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 their 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 they 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. All in all, this was a thrilling way to 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. 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.