Pregame Starting lineups
Cavs: Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas Hornets: Chris Paul, Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West, Tyson Chandler
--The Cavs are catching another break, getting the Hornets on a back-to-back. Also, there are lots of Hawaii and Georgia fans at the game tonight, in town for the Sugar Bowl, plus maybe some early Ohio State arrivals. May give it more of a neutral court feel. Of course, the Cavs were all off and able to enjoy Bourbon Street on a wild Friday night so perhaps it is a disadvantage. --The biggest issue tonight is whether the Cavs will be able to keep Chris Paul out of the lane. He's one of the best point guards in the league, so he's going to do damage. But his ability to get free baskets for guys like Chandler and West will be key. The Cavs kept Devin Harris and Jason Terry out of the lane in Dallas, this will be a big task for Hughes. --Chandler is one of the best offensive rebounders in the league. There will be pressure on Ilgauskas and Gooden to handle him tonight. Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see Mike Brown use Dwayne Jones to battle out there. --Peja is a very streaky shooter, if he gets going it could be a long night for the Cavs. But if the Cavs contest his shots, it may work out well for them. --Hornets are good -- third best in the West so far -- and hot -- they've won four straight. It will be an excellent test to see how much the Cavs have their stuff together.
Halftime -- Hornets 46, Cavs 42
--Cavs are lucky to only be down four and they are because they played much better in second quarter. The shot 35 percent in the first quarter and 55 percent in the second. They also only had one turnover in the second quarter after giving away seven in the first. The major difference was they went to Ilgauskas both in the post and on the outside and he was effective in the halfcourt. --LeBron is playing passively tonight. There is no way Peja should be able to guard him one-on-one or keep him out of the post. He's not attacking on picks, he's inviting the double team way too much. So far, this is one of his bad nights. We'll see if it changes. --The Cavs are dealing with Chris Paul's pick and rolls pretty well considering, but they've lost Peja and David West in the halfcourt a few times. The Cavs are also rebounding well, which has helped them stay close. --The Hornets are a good team and they aren't showing any signs of being tired from last night. Cavs will have to play at a high level to win tonight. --Before the game, Donyell Marshall has a routine where he locks arms with all the starters as they go on the court. Well, Drew Gooden wasn't paying attention and he belted 'Yell right in the jaw.
Postgame -- Hornets 86, Cavs 76 Stars David West, 27 points, 15 rebounds Chris Paul, 20 points, nine assists, seven steals
--First off, the Hornets are very good. They are 10 games over .500 and have played four fewer home games than road games. They have excellent promise and this isn't a bad loss for the Cavs. --However, this was a game that reminded the Cavs of eveything they don't have. Such as: guards who can handle or shoot and focus in the third quarter. Defense was reasonably good, especially in the halfcourt. Other than West schooling Gooden, the Cavs allowed just 42 percent shooting and 86 points. That's four good defensive games in the last five, which is progress. --Now, on to the rest. It is just out of hand with Pavlovic and Hughes and their shooting, just grossly unacceptable. Mike Brown is starting them because they are long and better on defense than the alternatives. I'd favor seeing Damon Jones a bit, but I suppose Gibson is playing that role better than DJ could. Sasha just isn't this bad, I don't think. Larry is this bad on jump shots but when he doesn't go to the basket or get the foul line his offensive is negative. Tonight when you consider his four turnovers, it's a negative. --Watching LeBron come off screens and wait for the double team is 1000 percent what other teams want. I'm not sure whether he's inviting them or if he's just so used to getting hit by a second man that it's ingrained in his head to expect it, but he's not aggressive coming off screens right now. The Hawks and Kings scouts were here and they saw it and they'll be doing it, too. Ultimately, that's why you don't want LeBron having to handle the ball so much, you want a point guard that can navigate it much better. That is an old conversation, but tonight was a refresher course. Danny Ferry and Mike Brown know this, of course, but nothing is being done about it at the moment. --The third quarter issue is a complete mystery to me. I guess it is an example of the Cavs' inconsistent focus. Tonight it was a 12-0 run to start the third, which basically ended the game. Players and coaches have been asked the question for months and nobody has a good answer. --Being back here in New Orleans reminds me of the last time I was here and the Jiri Welsch hook in 2005. One of the most memorable shots I've ever seen in the NBA, Welsch comes off a screen on the right wing and puts up a wide open 3-pointer...that started about five feet left of the rim and then hooked. This thing missed the basket standard by like four feet and landed out of bounds. I will never forget the look on LeBron's face as he came back up the court. After that shot, I knew Jiri was done for that season. --That Welsch shot is only surpassed in my personal experience by David Wesley's missed layup last year in Dallas, which some Cavs players were talking about the other night at the American Airlines Center. Wesley had an uncontested layup and jumped off the wrong foot and stuffed the ball into the padding under the backboard. Again, the looks on the Cavs bench were memorable. My colleague Bob Finnan later said Wesley should've dragged a podium out and retired on the spot. --As for New Orleans, this is my first visit since the hurricane. I have only seen downtown and the ride in from the airport. I have never really liked it here and I still don't, but that is a pure personal opinion and not a commentary on the culture (OK, no angry e-mails please). Now, it reminds me a bit of a third world country, everything for the tourists and the businessmen is OK but after that layer it gets ugly quick. Still lots of buildings boarded and ruins right in the middle of downtown, can't imagine the lower ninth ward. So if you liked New Orleans before, you will probably not see a difference now. Certainly not on Bourbon Street.
Quotes Mike Brown: "We came out flat but they had something to do with it. I wonder why we are flat coming out in the third quarters, that is something that in the past and tonight it has hurt us." LeBron: "They did a good job of doubling me as soon as I caught the ball, they had me on the ropes at times. It is going to happen every single game, I get doubled every time I touch the ball. I'm probably the only person in the NBA that happens to."