Paul, ëhungryí Hornets hope to steal a game in Texas
By Elizabeth White
SAN ANTONIO ó Chris Paul turned 23 on Tuesday. The New Orleans Hornetsí talented point guard said he had a low-key birthday, just hanging out with his teammates.
The big surprise party might happen tonight, courtesy of Paul and his team if they can beat the defending champion San Antonio Spurs yet again by picking up a Game 3 win to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.
iThey say youíre supposed to win all your home games. The series doesnít start until the home team loses,î Paul said Wednesday. iWe understand their backs are against the wall right now but weíve got to go in there and understand we really need to steal a game.î
The Hornets are poised to do so. They won in dominant fashion in Games 1 and 2 as the Spurs turned over the ball, missed open shots and looked slow next to the energetic Hornets.
Paul said the Hornets, playing with seemingly unwavering confidence as theyíve compiled a 6-1 playoffs record so far, are close-knit off the court, something that helps them when the chips are down on it.
iI think that makes a difference when weíre on the court in that we really try to play hard for each other and we donít want to see the season end,î Paul said.
Neither do the Spurs, who said theyíve got to do one thing in Game 3: play better.
Whether itís taking care of the ball (they had 28 turnovers in the first two games) or hitting outside shots when Tim Duncanís being doubled, the Spurs said they need to improve the little things.
iIt sounds, like, easy, but we just have to play better,î Tony Parker said. iThey just outplayed us the first two games, and now weíre playing at home and we have to make more shots and play better defense.
iWeíre going to change stuff, but at the end of the day itís just basketball.î
Parker and Manu Ginobili said they expect the Spurs to be more physical in Game 3. The two will try to be more aggressive in getting to the rim, something thatís been a challenge so far as the Hornets have crowded the lane to force perimeter shooting.
iWeíre going to have to realize that itís the only way, if weíre going to have a shot, that without being physical itís not going to happen,î Ginobili said, adding that his sore left ankle continues to improve.
And if they canít drive the lane, Parker said theyíll just have to trust other shooters.
iEvery year we won the championship, we got a lot of guys making shots,î he said.
Parker said heís taking a positive perspective and looking at being down 0-2 as a igreat challenge.î Now, he said, itís the Spursí turn to show they want to win it all.
The Hornets have.
New Orleans coach Byron Scott called his young team ihungryî and said theyíve thrived in their underdog role this season.
iWeíre not only playing the champions, weíre playing for respect, because we felt all season long like we really havenít gotten it,î he said.
This matchup between the dynastic Spurs and the emerging Hornets has indeed been billed as one of experience versus youth.
So far, Ginobili said, the experience part hasnít worked so well for San Antonio.
iEven with the kind of experience that we all say we have, they played smarter,î he said. iThey can play faster or sometimes stronger, but at least we should play smart.î
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