1Q New Orleans put the first points on the board, however, despite both teams adding to their scores, neither looked all that good. Enter Tim Duncan. After playing 3 games either with, or having the lingering effects of the flu, he came alive. Duncan started getting his traditional bank shot, hitting all the right guys out of the double team, and San Antonio started clicking. Meanwhile, on the other side, Chris Paul seemed to have slippery hands, as he lost the handle several times.
2Q The Spurs would quickly build their lead, with Manu hitting timely shots, Udoka stepping on the floor to make a 3, and several other role players hitting long range daggers as well. As West had a turnover, it was apparent that New Orleans was out of sync, likely from a stepped up team defense that could have brought a tear to Pop's eye, were he not so busy looking for something to improve upon. The French Flash continued to hit Js and look unstoppable, and Tim would put a beautiful spin move on Chandler, hitting a very difficult shot as he was fouled.
3Q With a 55-42 lead, San Antonio would not let off the gas. They continued to take it right at them, as Chandler would pick up fouls 3, 4 and 5 before the 8:30 mark. Continuing on, everything was working for San Antonio, as nothing worked for New Orleans. West would dance a fine line with the refs, as he would push Bowen late in the third. San Antonio would still show cause for worry though, as this period finished up with plenty of sloppy passing.
4Q Scott would place his bench on the court to kick off the final quarter, and Popovich soon responded with an impromptu scrimmage/shooting practice for his bench. The rest of the game basically went with the reserves running up and down the court, shooting 3s, with an occasional move towards the basket. San Antonio would come out by 20, with a 100-80 victory. Heading back to New Orleans, the series is tied at 2 a piece.
Review With Duncan finally healthy, everything simply went better for the Spurs. However, with Chandler's rapid fouling, many stats are inflated, particularly those of the bench, so they still aren't going to get a free pass from me. Fab-O definitely played his best game of the series, as his defense frustrated West throughout the game. His rebounding totals of ZERO still leave a lot to be desired though. Despite the extra minutes, San Antonio's bench still didn't do much. Udoka put up 15 points, but he should be doing that off the bench every game. Chris Paul still got his points, but his assists were way down, and it reflected upon every Hornet throughout the game.
Return To The Big Easy Chandler will definitely be well rested, but so will everyone else. The Hornets rested their starters for the 4th quarter, and Duncan closed on 35 minutes, while Parker and Ginobili each had under 32. That is definitely in San Antonio's favor, as they've been playing some huge minute games. As demoralizing as this game may have been though, perhaps no team is as attached to their town as the Hornets are. They will be rejuvenated and looking to make amends after a terrible game 4. San Antonio, again healthy and with renewed confidence, will put up a better challenge this go 'round. The Spurs bench still needs to step up and grab more rebounds. I know there are more available, because the opponents found 36 of them tonight.
Duncan: 22 pts, 15 boards, 4 blocks Parker: 21 pts, 6 boards, 8 assists, 67% shooting Ginobili: 15 pts, 8 assists
Paul: 23 pts, 6 boards, 5 assists, 3 steals West: 10 pts, 5 boards, 3 blocks Armstrong: 9 pts, 6 boards
Many of us thought that this would be another close game, however, with the reappearance of King Fundamental, that would not be the case. San Antonio would quickly take the lead in this game, and never look back.