1. Pressure? What pressure?
Just when it looked like the pressures of inexperience were finally catching up with the playoff green New Orleans Hornets, they stepped up again against the veteran defending champs. The Spurs owned a three-point advantage at halftime, just like in Games 1 and 2, but promptly had their socks blown off in the third period, just like in Games 1 and 2, when David West helped led his team on a 28-11 run in the quarter. By the time the final buzzer sounded, New Orleans had a 101-79 victory and a 3-2 lead in the series. The Spurs had no answer for West who recorded playoff career-highs with 38 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks on the same night San Antonio reserve Robert Horry played in his 238th postseason game, the most in league history. The Spurs philosophy of shutting down Peja Stojakovic (3-8 FG, 9 pts) offensively with Bruce Bowen worked once again, but, once again, they had no such luck against West or Chris Paul who finished with a 22-point, 14-assist double-double. Tim Duncan could not find his range, missing 13 of his 18 shots, but still posted 23 rebounds while Manu Ginobili erred his way to a team-high 20 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Game 6 is on Thursday in San Antonio where it will be do-or-die time for the home team.
2. It’s over!
In the final seconds of the game, Hedo Turkoglu went for a dunk that would have brought Orlando within a point of the Pistons. But Tayshaun Prince swooped in to make a game-changing block, forcing the Magic to foul and Detroit strolled into the Eastern Conference Finals with a 91-86 win. The Pistons are playing in their sixth consecutive conference finals, tying them with three other teams for the third most in NBA history after defeating Orlando in five games. Despite playing without Chauncey Billups for the final two contests, the Pistons were still the superior team, led by the starters who combined for all but four of the team’s points in the series closer. Richard Hamilton was perfect from the free-throw line, hitting all 16 of his attempts en route to a game-high 31 points and Antonio McDyess was outstanding with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Hamilton also became the franchise’s all-time leader in postseason points with 2,282 in 110 career games. For the Magic, it’s another disappointing to finish to an impressive season. They continue to take baby steps or in Dwight Howard’s case, man-child steps forward, but until Howard truly becomes the unstoppable offensive threat he is capable of being then these early exits will continue to occur.
3. Pain in the back
Going into Game 5 of the Lakers/Jazz series on Wednesday night, there’s really only one question that matters: How’s Kobe’s back? The MVP was in obvious pain during Game 4, but he still managed to almost record a triple-double in the loss, scoring 33 points to go with eight rebounds and 10 assists. So, in order to make sure their star was as close to 100 percent as possible, the Lakers rested Bryant during practice on Tuesday. Bryant said he would be “fine” for the momentum swinging game tonight which will give the winner a 3-2 advantage. We’re expecting a big game out of Bryant tonight; after all, if he can play with the weight of a sexual-assault trial on his back then a little tweak should be no problem at all.
Tuesday’s Player of the Day: David West vs. San Antonio 44 min, 38 pts (FG: 16-25, FT: 6-7), 14 reb, 5 ast, 2 stl, 5 blk
Buzzer Beater: After carrying bags and bringing in the doughnuts for an entire season, it’s time to give the NBA’s rookies a little love. The league’s All-Rookie teams were announced yesterday and the Hawks Al Horford was the only unanimous selection on the first squad. Surprisingly, the NBA Rookie of the Year Kevin Durant received only 57 of a possible 58 votes. Joining the hands-down best rooks in the game was Luis Scola from Houston, Al Thornton with the Clippers and Durant’s teammate Jeff Green. Second teamers included Jamario Moon (Tor), Juan Carlos Navarro (Mem), Thaddeus Young (Phi), Rodney Stuckey (Det) and Carl Landry (Hou).