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New Orleans-San Antonio preview

New Orleans-San Antonio preview

New Orleans-San Antonio preview
By Chris David

**No. 2 New Orleans vs. No. 3 San Antonio**

Series Price: San Antonio -130, New Orleans +100

Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1

Skinny:

New Orleans advanced to the second round by defeating Dallas in five games. Point guard Chris Paul dominated the Mavericks for 24.6 points per game and 12 assists during the quick five-game set. Paul's All-Star teammate David West (22.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG) dominated the paint, while sharp shooters Peja Stojakovic (15.8 PPG) and Jannero Pargo (14.6 PPG) helped Paul pad his assists column on the stat sheet.

The Hornets shot 46 percent or better from the field in the four wins and only 37 percent in the lone road loss. Head coach Byron Scott stressed defense and his team responded by holding Dallas under the century mark in four of the five battles. The club only averaged 21.6 free throw attempts but connected on 78 percent.

We could be talking about Phoenix in this space if it wasn't for Tim Duncan's heroics in Game 1 for San Antonio. The All-Star forward drained a game-tying 3-pointer in the first battle, which forced overtime and an amazing 117-115 comeback victory for the Spurs. After that loss, it appeared the Suns lost their swagger and eventually succumbed to coach Greg Popovich and company. Phoenix saved face by winning Game 4 (105-86) at home and had another shot to extend the series but the club continued to beat itself down the stretch.

San Antonio averaged 102.4 PPG in the five games and shot a solid 46.7 percent from the floor. The three-headed monster of Tony Parker (29.6 PPG, 7 APG), Manu Ginobili (18.2 PPG) and Duncan (24.8 PPG, 13.8 RPG) proved to be too much for the Suns again.

The Hornets and Spurs split the four regular season meetings, with each team stealing a victory on the road. None of the contests had much drama, with three being decided by double digits and the other margin was nine points. Delving into the box scores further, the winner shot an extremely higher percentage in all of the games. The most recent meeting took place on Mar. 12 when New Orleans drilled 58 percent (44-of-75) of their attempts from the field for a 100-75 home blowout victory against San Antonio. The Spurs shot 42 percent, but were held to an embarrassing eight points in the fourth quarter. Paul led the Hornets with 26 points and 17 dimes in the lopsided triumph.

Gambling Notes:

Stats often play a telling tale and one number that stood out in the four regular season battles between the Spurs and Hornets was the combined free throws attempted. The two teams shot 35, 22, 36 and 27 attempts, which is what a handful of NBA clubs come close to by themselves. If the refs continue swallow their whistle (Big If) in this series, then the ‘under’ looks very tempting.

San Antonio was favored in all four games during the regular season, but the Hornets are laying three points in Game 1 and should be short favorites in the remaining games as well. The Spurs will most likely be laying between 4 and 6 points at home, depending on previous outcomes.

The 'under' went 3-1 and the total ranged between 183-184 in San Antonio and 185-186 in New Orleans. The Spurs were favored in three of the games and the fourth encounter mentioned above was a pick 'em.

Versus Phoenix, San Antonio went 2-2-1 against the spread. The 'over' cashed in the first three games before going 'under' in the final two. New Orleans fared well for its backers, going 3-2 ATS. The 'under' went 3-2.

San Antonio (23-20 SU, 16-27 ATS) and New Orleans (27-16 SU, 26-17 ATS) have both proven they can win on the road in the regular and postseason.

Outlook:

The Hornets are on a serious roll and Chris Paul has proven why he's a Most Valuable Player candidate. This series will be a true test for the former Wake Forest standout as he meets Parker, who claimed the NBA Finals MVP last year. Paul torched Kidd in the quarterfinals and Parker ripped up Nash. Their games are similar and it's just a matter of which player is more consistent with their mid-range jumpers.

The Hornets game plan is drive and dish with Paul either tossing dunks to Tyson Chandler or kicking it out to the snipers. I'm expecting Popovich to let Paul get his shots and not give up the long ball from the gunners. Normally, defensive stopper Bruce Bowen would stick Paul but his duties will most likely be focused on shutting down Stojakovic.

Look for Duncan to get a lot of touches against the Hornets and try to get Chandler in foul trouble. Backup Hilton Armstrong is no match for the big man and I don't expect Byron Scott to put David West on Duncan because he need's him on the offensive end.

The Spurs' bench has a plethora of weapons to use, often going four and five deep off the pine. Popovich has confidence in all of his veterans and isn't afraid to call on any of them. The Hornets have received instant offense from Pargo and Morris Peterson in the first round, but both players are limited defensively.

My advice should be taken lightly, considering I expected the Mavericks and Suns to upend the Hornets and Spurs. With that being said, I like the Hornets in this matchup based on a couple factors. San Antonio is running on borrowed time in my opinion and I can argue that Phoenix should've been up 2-0 after two games. The only dominating game the Spurs played was in Game 3 and that's largely because they shot 56 percent. The Hornets' defense is legit and the Paul factor is big. New Orleans will win in seven games.

Future Advice:

San Antonio has won three titles in the last five years, but has never won back-to-back championships. In the two exits, both have come in the Western Conference semifinals. In 2004, Derek Fisher silenced San Antonio with a memorable chuck that helped the Lakers win in six games. And Dirk Nowitzki helped Dallas stop San Antonio in seven games with his old-school 3-point play.

You can bet the Hornets to win in six games (5/1) or seven games (7/2) at Sportsbook.com. Rather than taking New Orleans plus 100 (Bet $100 to win $100) on the series, we suggest you go one-unit on the club in six and seven games.

On a side note history shows that the Lakers and Mavericks both won the conference finals after stopping the Spurs in 2004 and '06, but each team was upset in the NBA Finals to the Pistons and Heat. Keep that in mind.

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