So… what’s going on with Chris Paul and the Hornets?

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Let us hearken back to those alabaster days when things were simpler, times were happier. When Chris Paul and the Hornets were 8-0, and by golly, CP3 looked like the MVP. A playoff team? No, the question was if New Orleans would have homecourt in the first round! Can they topple the Lakers? Is Emeka Okafor most improved? Is Marco Belinelli the most stylish man in the NBA?

But alas, those days are gone. The mighty Hornets have sucked in routs.

Since that wonderful time, the Hornets are 5-6, losers of their last 5 of 7, and have lots to teams like the Clippers and Knicks (including letting Amar’e Stoudemire work them over like they were paying him to do it). So the Hornets are slumping in a big way. But what’s to be concerned with? I think we all knew this team wasn’t quite that good (those of us whose fandom does not ride floats up a certain street in Louisiana named after a certain county in Kentucky at least). This is simply the reversion to the norm. I’m sure the issues are with Emeka Okafor going back to looking like the same inconsistent, easy to confuse and overwhelm center he’s always been and Marco Belinelli and Willie Green reverting back to form, right?

Well…

From Hornets blog At The Hive:

It feels weird to blame Chris Paul at the end of a loss. For more than half a decade, the blame has almost always been rightfully directed elsewhere. But our current offensive woes start and stop with him. On a night the team missed David West, we needed him to step up and take over the scoring load. Instead, he deferred and deferred and deferred until it was far too late. When he did start putting up shots as the game wound down, he scored almost at will. That just makes it so much more exasperating. The overall numbers look fine, but anybody that watched this game will tell you that Chris Paul let the Hornets down.

Yikes. Well, that’s one man’s opinion. What say you, Hornets 24-7?

Normally I refrain from talking too much about Paul since everyone else who writes about the game is going to cover every move and breath he takes, but I can’t help but publicly question his passive play. I don’t want to make any accusations, so I’ll leave it at that.

Sure, with 5 minutes left in the game he decided to take over, but what about the other 43 minutes? Too little, too late.

He finished with 17 points on 9 shots, 10 assists to 2 turnovers, 4 rebounds and 4 steals. The numbers are great, but there need to be more of them under the point category to win games like this.

PAUL HASN’T SCORED 20 POINTS SINCE 11/17. SINCE THEN THE HORNETS ARE 4-5. – I felt like that deserved capitalized bold letters. Paul used to drop 30 once a week just for fun.

Hmmm. It would appear that there may be a batch of bad gin (or jazz or crawfish po’ boys or whatever New Orleans cliche you’d prefer here) going around in New Orleans. It’s hard to figure out exactly what the Hornets have to do to get back to their winning ways, since that early streak was so simply excellent in every regard. They defended well, they attacked well, they rebounded well, they passed well, they shot well. Fixing those things may take rotation changes, it may just take time. Tough one for Monty Williams to figure out.

The Hornets are currently 13-6, three games behind San Antonio for the Southwest Division lead, and in fifth place in the Western Conference. They play San Antonio on Sunday.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.