If the Hornets indeed face the Spurs, they'll have a chance because of Paul. But their defense and depth will be tested: Paul guarding Parker; Chandler on Duncan. Those two especially will have to stay out of foul trouble.
Hornets advance, 99-94. Their stars were simply super once again: Paul with a triple-double (24 points, 11 rebounds, 15 assists), West with 25 points, Chandler with 13 rebounds (seven offensive) and three blocked shots.
Paul misses a jumper, but Chandler, the best offensive rebounder in the NBA, taps the ball back out. It winds up with Stojakovic, who is fouled with 5.7 seconds left. This one is finally over. Stojakovic hits two at the line. Hornets, 99-94, 5.7 seconds to go.
Hornets clearly thought their work was finished and now they're limping to the line again. 33.2 seconds to go. Mavs don't need to foul. Let's see how they play it.
Look out ... Devean George just hit another 3 to pull the Mavs to within 5, 97-92. 38.7 seconds left. Dallas ball, 4 on the shot clock. Nowitzki misses, but Bass rebounds and is fouled. He just barely misses an and 1. Bass at the line: make, make. Mavs within 3, 97-94. 33.2 seconds left.
Stackhouse, being a punk as usual, is ejected. Somewhere, somehow, Stackhouse and Carmelo Anthony deserve each other.
The Mavs have two nice pieces, starting with Nowitzki. But look at the overall: They start two older players in Kidd and Dampier who give them zero offense and really don't even need to be guarded. Stackhouse has developed Rolando Blackman disease (i.e., an overnight drop in production). Howard obviously can't be counted on when it matters. Other than Dirk, Bass is the only other piece that I'd set aside to build around. I'd clean house in every other room, including the coach's office.
Pargo reverse layup. Hornets up, 84-67, 7:00 left. Nowitzki just drove weak and was denied. This series is similar to last year's vs. Golden State. The Hornets, much like the Warriors in 2007, are younger, more athletic, and hungrier. And they established early on that if they kept the pressure on, attacked mismatches in the halfcourt, attacked on the break, and funneled the Mavs into shots they didn't want to take, they would win going away.
Wright hits two from the line. Hornets up, 82-67, 7:36 to go.
Pargo from Wright on the break. Hornets, 78-66. Timeout Dallas. 9:07 left.
Pargo a step-back 3. Hornets, 76-66. New Orleans is tentative again, though, getting bailed out by some tough shot-making against the clock.
Howard airball 3 to open the fourth. Paul answers with a long 2. Hornets, 73-63.
Howard is having another rough game, although 5-for-12 for 10 points through 3 might be his best game in the series. The guy averaged a career-high 19.9 on 45 percent shooting during the regular season. But those numbers were down to 12.8 and a dismal 26 percent through the first four games of the series. Quite simply, Howard is killing the Mavs, who have numerous problems, but this is the biggest. The way the team is constructed Howard has to hit his averages. They just don't have the other players to compensate when he doesn't.
Chandler, who stayed in the game with his four fouls, just blocked Stackhouse at the rim, then denied him again at the third-quarter buzzer. Hornets, 71-63, after 3.
West over Bass and 1. Hornets, 71-63.
Terry hits two at the line. Mavs within 5.
Bass draws a foul on Chandler, who just picked up his fourth. 57.5 seconds left in the third.
Brandon Bass! Completely outworked three Hornets underneath and dunked over the top of Chandler. Terry adds a dunk. Mavs within seven, 68-61.
Paul for 3. Hornets, 68-57.
Paul hits a tough 2 right at the shot-clock buzzer, but the Hornets will not be able to walk this one to the finish line.
Paul still not pushing the ball.
Nowitzki a long two. Mavs within six, 63-57.
Mavs have cut a 15-point deficit to eight early in the second half. Paul is not aggressive enough right now. Hornets, following Paul's lead, are tentative.