A look at the matchup between the New Orleans Hornets and San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the NBA playoffs, which begins Saturday (with regular-season record, first-round series mark in parentheses):
No. 2 NEW ORLEANS HORNETS (56-26, 4-1) vs. No. 3 SAN ANTONIO SPURS (56-26, 4-1).
Season Series: Tied, 2-2, with both New Orleans wins coming in blowouts. The Hornets sent a loud statement they were a contender with a 102-78 victory in San Antonio on Jan. 26, and later beat the Spurs 100-75 at home. The Spurs limited the Hornets to 87 points per game in the other two games. Chris Paul averaged 14 assists in the Hornets' two wins, 5.5 in the losses.
est Division title and home-court advantage for this series.
Key Matchup I: Paul vs. Tony Parker. Two of the NBA's speediest point guards, who expertly work the pick-and-roll and can get to the basket against almost any defender. The Spurs frequently used Bruce Bowen to defend Steve Nash in the first round, but Paul probably has too much foot speed for the Spurs' 36-year-old defensive ace. Parker, a better scorer, averaged 29.6 points in the first round. Paul went for 24.6 points and 12.0 assists.
Key Matchup II: Peja Stojakovic vs. Bowen. Stojakovic was a sizzling 17-of-28 (61 percent) from 3-point range in the first round while averaging 15.8 points. Bowen, a physical perimeter defender, will try to make sure Stojakovic doesn't get too comfortable.
X-Factor: Jannero Pargo. Gave the Hornets 14.6 points per game in his reserve role against Dallas, either spelling Paul or playing together in the backcourt to help them quicken the pace. Combined with Bonzi Wells and Julian Wright, he gives New Orleans an edge in athleticism off the bench.
Prediction: Spurs in 7.
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