|ESPN.com: NBA Playoffs 2008||[Print without images]|
|The Mavs couldn't keep Chris Paul down. He scored 32 points in New Orleans' 127-103 Game 2 win.|
NEW ORLEANS -- "Woo!"
That's what the Hornets' PA announcer says every time Chris Paul scores, or assists, or makes some other nice play, and then the crowd follows it up with one of their own.
And the Mavericks have to be darn sick of hearing it, because in the first two games of this series we've had more wooing than Romeo and Juliet.
Paul followed his domination of Game 1 by, unbelievably, playing even better in Game 2. His 32 points, 17 assists, five rebounds and three steals led the Hornets to a 127-103 laugher over a reeling Dallas team and gave them a 2-0 lead in the series.
Unlike Game 1, the Mavs made a serious effort to throw full-court and three-quarter traps at Paul, but the Hornets obviously were ready. The first three times Dallas went to it, the Hornets ended up with David West isolated on the block against Jason Terry, and got three easy scores out of it.
"Early on, everything we tried on Paul didn't work," Mavs coach Avery Johnson said. "We wanted to come out [and] get the ball out of his hands. We tried that, he split us a couple times and got away from us.
"And then the main thing is their other guys stepped up big for them tonight. They were playing 4-on-3 sometimes, which we wanted them to do, and [Morris] Peterson made shots, [Tyson] Chandler caught some lobs, and they really jumped out on us in the first quarter."
That 39-point first quarter rocked the Mavs onto their heels, and they never recovered. The Hornets had only five empty trips in the entire period, a quarter that ended with Paul making a buzzer-beating floater down the right sideline for the second straight game to put New Orleans up by double figures.
From there Dallas threw the kitchen sink at Paul, to no avail. They used big defenders (Eddie Jones, Devean George) and small ones (Terry). They tried going under screens, and trapping him hard on the pick-and-roll. They tried posting him up when they had the ball to wear him out at the defensive end. About the only thing they didn't try was the Tonya Harding strategy, and one gets the impression it's the only thing left that will work.
In fact, the only difference from Game 1 was that while the Mavs couldn't stop Paul in the opener, they couldn't stop anybody in white in Game 2. Much of this was because the Hornets were simply playing out of their minds, as one can tell from some of the improbable shots they converted. Hilton Armstrong dribble driving from deep on the wing? Bucket. Kick out to West for a contested trey? Money. And don't even get us started on the 3s -- New Orleans made 10-of-18.
"You've got to give them credit, they were on fire tonight," Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki said. "Paul did his thing, but they had their shooters going."
Of course, part of the reason they made so many shots was because they were wide open. Dallas took the first punch from New Orleans and went straight to the mat, never mounting a serious stand on defense.
That was what the Mavs seemed most disappointed about: not that they lost a game in which New Orleans was making everything it threw up, but that they didn't show the necessary energy and fire.
"We didn't play with a lot of enthusiasm," Nowitzki said. "Collectively we just have to have more fire, really get after them more. Everything came a little easy for them tonight. They were wide open."
"We just got outplayed, outfought and outworked," Terry said.
|Dirk Nowitzki and Avery Johnson had no answer for Chris Paul in the first two games.|
John Hollinger writes for ESPN Insider. To e-mail him, click here.