Thursday, May 1, 2008
A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon
(I googled "Spurs Hornets" looking for a good image to use and this came up. I figured, why fight it.)
And there are more than a fair share of soldiers on both the Spurs and the Hornets. That's right, its time for another obvious and shoddily written playoff preview here at 48 Minutes of Hell. You'd swear today it's Chris Paul blog day from reading this, not may 6th, am I right?
So, I don't know whom the sports media favors in this one (the Suns were the chic pick last round and I'm not sure whether the outcome of that series has changed anyone's long term mind about the Spurs). As you all probably know, we split the season series 2-2, each winning one at home and one away, although when the Hornets won they won by large margins. So I think a lot of people are gonna take the Hornets. That being said, I think those games are poor indicators of what is to come, and for one primary reason.
No NBA team flips the switch come the playoffs like the Spurs. We went 1-3 against the Suns during the regular season, and I believe the outcome of that first round match-up is still fresh in your minds. The only one who really goes all out for 82 in my opinion is Manu. But the difference in the focus and intensity these guys show in the regular season and the playoffs is shocking. I think the most glaring example has to be Tony Parker. He averaged 18.8 points during the season. The man averaged 29.6 during the Suns series. If anyone thinks he is giving his all during the regular season you are sorely mistaken. I think Duncan can absolutely be included in this group as well. I think this is most evident, not in his stats, but in his general demeanor and hustle. The man can go 20-10 with his eyes closed, but in the playoffs you see him fight for loose balls, second shots, things of that sort. And taking and making BIG SHOTS. He is our anchor all season, but the man gets his gameface on in April and May.
Compare this to the Hornets. Nobody could ever say these guys aren't good. That they don't have hustle and heart and all the intangibles that produce a great team. But they showed those from day one. Which isn't a bad thing. They have the youth and vigor to go 82 games and keep pumping. But I do think it means we have seen the best they have to offer, which is in no way meant to be a slight. That "best" is quite good. I just think it gives the Spurs an advantage, being that they can more accurately size up exactly what the Hornets are going to throw at them.
As far as psychology is concerned, obviously the Spurs have proven themselves over and over again. For the Hornets this is a real X-factor. I am not going to say they are going to crack under pressure. We don't know that. All I am saying is they haven't ever played a championship level opponent in the post-season. (If anyone tries to claim the Mavs were a championship level team this year you are a bold faced liar). Their collective composure is untested, but by the end of this we will have a good sense of where they are at mentally.
As far as the X's and O's are concerned, I really don't have anything unique to say. I think we need to keep Duncan on Chandler and let Oberto go chase West onto into the mid-range area, but I think that was a given. We are gonna need Duncan to stay at home in order to create problems for Paul when he inevitably gets to the hoop. I think we need to throw a lot of different defensive looks at Paul, including doubling him up near half court (bring a guy of off Morris Peterson) in order to get the ball out of his hands, or at least in order to get him to pick up his dribble (he does a great job maintaining his dribble at the top of the key in order to leave himself options). I think it could be smart to put a big team on the floor, i.e. Duncan, Thomas, Udoka, so we can pound away at them on the inside (I think they will have a lot of trouble guarding not just Duncan in the post, but a variety of our guys). I don't know how Paul is gonna react to Parker when the Hornets are on defense. Paul is a good defender but I don't think they have the defensive savvy to keep up with our pick and roll. Aside from the final shot during regulation of game 1, and the 3rd quarter of game 2, Finley disappeared out there in the opening round. If he could step up and be present (or if Barry would believe in his shot) it could go a long way towards opening up the lane for Manu and Parker (like I said, I write obvious playoff previews).
For the most part I am confident. I think this Hornets team will claw tooth and nail, but I think the execution and consistency of the Spurs will rule the day. On both sides of the aisle, this series will be much harder than the last. Spurs in 6.