Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tuesday's Starting Five

1. Byron Scott's Halftime Speech. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Churchill's "Blood, Sweat and Tears" speech. These don't have anything on whatever it is that New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott tells his team during the halftime of playoff games. The Hornets have outscored the Mavs and the Spurs thus far in the playoffs during third quarter by a combined 201-156. They've won the quarter outright 5 of 7 times (the two losses by a combined 11 points, with one of the third quarters they dropped occurring in a game that they already led), including +12, +16 and +18 margins. Game 2 of the Bestern Conference semifinals was no different. The Hornets trailed the Spurs by a point when they exited the tunnel with whatever Coach Scott had told them still reverberating in their ears. With less than three minutes played in the second half Peja, Paul and co. had turned a one point deficit into a nine point lead. They would never look back.

2. Chris Paul. I know I won't shut up about it. I know I'm just beating a dead horse (ouch, too soon?) here. But, Chris Paul is otherworldly. He is as dominant right in this very moment as Jordan ever was at any given point during his long stretch of brilliance. Paul is as explosive as Isiah Thomas once was. Chris Paul is must-see television right now. Even the Spurs are watching him. They're watching him split double teams and cut through the paint like a knife through hot butter. He is out-quicking Tony Parker at the edge and brushing past Tim Duncan as if he were playing with in quicksand. On the off-chance that someone actually did manage to stop him before he got to the rim he would simply loft in a perfectly weighted floater or kick back out to a wide-open Peja. He scored nine points in the first half. And, then he got mad. You don't want to make CP3 angry. He was getting into it with Bruce Bowen. He's standing up to the the Spurs boogey-monster and showing him to be nothing more than another Boo Radley. He's old and living off a reputation. Paul finished with 30 points and 12 assists.

3. The Detroit Pistons. The sky seemed to be falling in Motown during the first half of Game 3 of their first round series against the Sixers. The season obituaries were writing themselves: "unmotivated group can't flip switch in clutch," "no more playoffs for passionless Pistons." But a funny thing happened on the way to firing Flip Saunders. They Pistons blew the doors of Philly in the second half of that game and soon wrapped up the series. They welcomed a more formidable opponent (Orlando) to the Palace in the next round and squashed them in Game One before grinding out (with the help of an egregious error by whomever runs the clock) Game Two last night.

4. Hedo Turkoglu. It's true that he did squander Orlando's last realistic chance to win this game. I'll give you that. He didn't need to rush that three-pointer. There was plenty of time and they didn't even need the three. But, it's also true that Hedo has shown he is a bottom-of-the-upper-echelon player in the NBA. He is a Turkish doppelganger of Rasheed Wallace. He's 6-feet-10-inches tall and weights 220 but he hits threes and can drive through the lane like a 3. He doesn't play in the post enough for someone his size but, man alive, he can hit those threes! He's got a less-than-intense look on his face most of the time. But he's a competitor and his team's endgame player. He is the Turkeed Walloglu.

Hedo's playoff numbers: 17.0 points / 7.0 rebounds / 5.4 assists / 0.9 steals
Rasheed's playoff numbers: 14.0 points / 5.9 rebounds / 2.0 assists / .9 steals

5. The Hornets Bandwagon. C'mon aboard! After literally months of being treated with less respect than the Chinatown Bus to Boston it's start to get a bit crowded. You might still be able to find a seat as long as you climb in before Wednesday's game.