Game 7 Tonight, Series Tied 3-3

Posted: May 19, 2008 in Hornets

The Spurs and Hornets will take the court tonight in the New Orleans Arena facing elimination. Each team had won their home games by 10+ points, the first time in NBA history and all of the 10 games played between these two teams this season have been blowouts, Hornets with 5, Spurs with 5. The key for San Antonio is to figure out how to have a decent 3rd quarter here in New Orleans; for the Hornets, they must continue to have that energy that’s tough to match at home, come out and jump on the Spurs quick.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Jannero Pargo spun through the air on a one-handed dunk attempt, stuffed himself on the front rim and fell backward onto the court while his New Orleans Hornets teammates buckled over in laughter.

Tyson Chandler, showing no lingering effects from a foot injury last Tuesday, quickly grabbed a ball and mocked the whole sequence – fall included.

If the young Hornets are nervous about Monday night’s Game 7 against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, it didn’t show after practice on Sunday.

Chandler joked that having three days off after Thursday’s Game 6 loss helped his conditioning because he was able to spend more time with his 2-year-old daughter.

“She may be a little tougher to chase around than Tim Duncan,” Chandler said. “She’s been a handful out there – no disrespect to Tim Duncan. He knows he’s my guy.”

No Hornets team has advanced to a conference finals in the 20-year history of the franchise. However, this squad, led by first-year All-Stars Chris Paul and David West, already has led the organization to new heights, including a franchise-record 56 victories in the regular season.

That mark earned the Hornets the second seed in the Western Conference and what seems to be an all-important home advantage in this second-round series. The home team has won every game by double digits. The Hornets have yet to lose in six home playoff games during the first two rounds of the playoffs.

“We knew it was going to be a long series, the type of team we’re dealing with,” said West, whose sore back didn’t stop him from scrimmaging on Sunday and apparently won’t keep him out of the lineup on Monday night.

“The reason we fought out games throughout the regular season was to be able to have a Game 7 on your home floor. We’ve been able to do that, so we’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity we have.”

This is also the first time the Hornets have faced elimination in these playoffs, something the Spurs overcame in Game 6 in San Antonio, when the Spurs blew out the Hornets, led by Manu Ginobili’s 25 points.

“You’ve just got to be very focused, knowing that you can’t blink, that you can’t let the other team get on a run, get confident on a run,” said Ginobili, who made six 3-pointers in Game 6. “It’s going to be a really tense game with a lot of adrenaline. Fans are going to be going nuts. So it’s going to be a very fun game to play.”

Although the Spurs have won four NBA titles in the previous nine seasons, they’ve never won two back-to-back. They’ve also never fought back from a 2-0 playoff series deficit, which they had early on in this series. The Spurs were beaten soundly in their previous three games in New Orleans, but in none of those games was their season on the brink as it is now. Whether added urgency makes San Antonio a better road team remains to be seen.

“We’ll see if we thrive on pressure after Monday’s game. We still don’t know,” Ginobili said. “It’s a great test for both teams. A lot of pressure, as I said before, and we’re going to try to be the ones that respond to that pressure the best way.”

While the Hornets appear loose and jovial, there was a poignant moment Sunday when coach Byron Scott gathered players in a huddle and told them he wasn’t ready to close the book on what has been a special season.

There has been a certain magic about the Hornets this season, their first full-time campaign in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005.

Paul and West both made their All-Star debuts in the same season that New Orleans hosted the popular exhibition of basketball’s elite, then led the Hornets to the playoffs for the first time in four years.

The team incorporated the city’s fleur-de-lis symbol into its logo and backed it up by helping with rebuilding projects all over town while offering performances worth cheering on the court.

The New Orleans Arena, often half-empty back in November and December, has been routinely sold out since midseason. Indeed, a city of world-renown culinary distinction now has an undeniable appetite for pro basketball, if only the Hornets can serve up another round of the playoffs.

“I don’t want today to be our last practice,” Scott said Sunday. “I don’t want tomorrow to be our last shootaround. I just felt I needed to let them know and hopefully they feel the same way.”

“Hornets’ magical season, or Spurs’ defense, to end”. May 18, 2008. “”.


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