Hornets 100, Cavs 99
--Not to repeat what I wrote in the paper, but many times I come on here and tell you the last shot didn't really decide a game, it was just the final line in a book, etc. Tonight the final play perfectly summed up the game. Chris Paul got into the middle and knew exactly where his teammate was going to be. And that teammate was perfectly positioned to execute something he is good at, a mid-range shot. Considering this was what Paul did the entire game, this was the cherry at the end. From the Cavs' perspective, if you froze things with 2.5 seconds left you would have Paul in the air with three Cavs around him and nobody in his sight. Then he makes a great play. Tip your hat, ladies and gents. He did it all night. 20 assists and one turnover and, folks, the one turnover was sorta fake. It was when LeBron tied him up and there was a jump ball. --Technically, Joe Smith messed up on the last play, he was supposed to stay attached to West because the Cavs wanted to use LeBron's length on Paul and not give him an open man to pass to. The problem was there was a screen and Smith figured he better pick him up or Paul may get a layup. Normally in this situation, Anderson Varejao would be there and the Cavs would execute a switch on a screen because they believe Andy is quick enough to defend a guard. But Mike Brown, I believe, was still upset at Varejao for letting Tyson Chandler get a putback dunk on him with 47 seconds left and he was done with him. --The two lowest scoring games in the last 40 LeBron has had have been against the Hornets, 21 points both times. I believe their traps and double teams are very sound, but I still think LeBron was very passive at times. He was better at moving the ball in the second half, but I believe this was a game when he went with the flow too much. But as I said at halftime, the Cavs offense was still strong. They shot 50 percent and had 56 points in the paint. That's a win more than 90 percent of the time. The Hornets are freaking good. --That said, LeBron's final shot was excellent. He saw the double team was set up for him to go left for whatever reason and he went right to get around it. Then when he saw Tyson Chandler commit to James' right, he switched hands and went around him to the left. Super high-quality effort. Plus he was right to try to leave a little time in case of a miss, the game was not tied. --LeBron got all fiery at some of his teammates at times for leaving guys like Peja Stojakovic and Jannero Pargo open. But the way the Hornets play and the way the Cavs help on defense, it is so tough to stay attached at times. Besides, LeBron himself shaded towards Chandler to defend the lob and left Peja more than once. Listen, this is going to be an awfully tough team to beat four out of seven times especially if they have homecourt throughout the playoffs. --I believe, and I have for about two weeks now, that the Cavs will finish with 45 or 46 wins. This will probably get them the No. 4 seed and many of you will be disappointed. It was certainly a disappointing regular season. Especially after they got it going in January before all the injuries started to bite. But you must consider this: this was the third game they lost at the buzzer this season (Deron Williams in Utah, Michael Redd in Milwaukee); they were 0-6 without LeBron, who missed the most games of his career; Z missed the most games in seven seasons, 17 of 21 back-to-backs had the second night on the road. I'd say winning 4-5 fewer games than last season is explained right there. Not that I am giving them a pass.
Hornets: Chris Paul, Morris Peterson, Tyson Chandler, David West, Paul Stojakovic Cavs: Delonte West, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James, Anderson Varejao, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Officials Joe DeRosa, Michael Smith, Eli Roe
--Ben Wallace and Daniel Gibson are sitting this one out. With Wallace, the Cavs are trying to give him the week off to try and get his back as healthy as possible. With Gibson, it sounds like the training staff just said no. He said he wanted to play yesterday, although now he's toeing the company line. I guess it'll be Saturday for his return. --The Cavs are getting the Hornets on a back-to-back, but that won't make the matchups any easier. There's nobody in the league that can stay in front of Paul and the way the Cavs play defense when a PG gets to the middle it's over. Especially one with Paul's passing skills. Supreme test for the Cavs defense. --Drew Gooden got embarrassed by David West the last time these teams played. We'll see how Andy and Joe Smith do. He's got a good mid-range game and can score from the block, it makes him a challenge to guard. --Let's see how the Cavs come out after a couple of hard practices. They've been a different team at home, but this will be one of the toughest challenges they've had in awhile.
Halftime -- Hornets 56, Cavs 50
--For those of you who get tired of watching the Cavs offense, pay attention to the Hornets. Now, obviously Paul sets all of it up and without him it may not work. But when the Hornets run a play, they set a pick and then give Paul three options. There's a guy rolling to the hole, usually Tyson Chandler, there's a guy who sets up for a mid-range shot, and a guy that goes to the 3-point line. The spacing is perfect and so when Paul get space and draws in the defense, he gets to pick the correct man. And if you stay home, he'll just shoot. A great machine that has parts that work. Very impressive. --All that said, I'm not sure the Cavs can stop it and I know Delonte West cannot stop him. About the only chance the Cavs have is if the shooters miss more. With their style of shrink the floor defense, I don't think they are equipped to handle it. We'll see, but the Hornets I think just played average and are on pace for 112 points. --New Orleans is choosing to blitz the pick-and-rolls with LeBron, which means they are double teaming him. Neither he nor his teammates are handling this very well. The proper way is to isolate the pick and punish the defense for leaving the other man. But the Cavs spacing has been off when LeBron's had the ball. That is why he wasn't very effective. He just had one assist, usually when teams play him this way he piles them up. But overall, the Cavs have done well on offense thanks mostly to Z. --David West has 14 points in the first half, showing his value. But he has zero rebounds and Anderson Varejao has seven including five offensive, which has helped the Cavs to 12 second chance points. So is West playing well? Um, kinda.
Stars CP3, 15 points, 20 assist Peja, 25 points Z, 29 points, 15 rebounds LeBron, 21 points, eight assists
Quotes LeBron: "That's why (Paul) is the best point guard in the league. He's got eyes in the back of his head." Paul: "I call David West the "17-foot assassin." I knew he would be somewhere behind me, so when I saw him I was like thank goodness."