- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2008

Everyone knew Chris Paul was pretty darn good. Some even would have said borderline great.

But with the way he has flat out embarrassed the San Antonio Spurs in the first two games of this series, there’s no borderline about it. He’s flippin’ spectacular.

In Game 1 he notched 17 points, 13 assists and four steals, and New Orleans won 101-82. OK, impressive. But there’s no way the Spurs — one of the best defensive teams in the league — would let that happen again in the same series.

But what happened in Game 2? Paul had his way with the Spurs, finishing with 30 points and 12 assists as the Hornets won 102-84.

Suddenly a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last season — mustering a 39-43 record — has the defending champion Spurs — winners of four titles in the last nine years — in trouble.

So the regular season, when the young Hornets challenged for the best record in the West, wasn’t a fluke.

Chris Paul and the young Hornets look like title contenders, while San Antonio’s cast looks old, slow and baffled.

Kobe Bryant just took home MVP honors, but Paul is making all the voters who listed him as first runner-up wish they had a do-over.

The playoffs are where legends are made, and CP3 definitely has set out to pen his tale. Already impressive in a regular season in which he averaged 21.1 points and 11.6 assists, he has been even better in the playoffs. In seven games — five spent dismantling the Dallas Mavericks and the last two against the Spurs — Paul has averaged 24.3 points and 12.1 assists.

It’s like one of those video games. You have the controls in hand, you are Paul and you can make him do whatever you want. The opposing team has no way of stopping him.

And he’s fueling his teammates to spectacular performances.

The Hornets seem to have an answer to all of the Spurs’ surefire options. Paul has outdone Tony Parker almost without even trying. The Spurs are focusing on Paul and leaving Peja Stojakovic open to destroy them from 3-point range. Tyson Chandler has used his length to frustrate the great Tim Duncan down low while outrebounding him 13.0 to 5.5 so far. And he has taken away those easy drives to the basket by Parker and Manu Ginobili.

And when the Spurs appear to wear down late in games, the Hornets seem to get only stronger.

Young and inexperienced, yes. But New Orleans seems a thousand times hungrier.

Now the series shifts to San Antonio tonight.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the series started he would be worried even if his team was heading back to San Antonio with a 2-0 lead. Now that they’re down 0-2 what does that make him?

The Spurs, who were 1-1 at home against the Hornets this season, desperately need a win. They need to find a way to break down New Orleans’ defense, which has stifled them and forced them to the perimeter, where the Spurs have shot 34.2 percent.

And history isn’t on San Antonio’s side. Although it hasn’t happened often, when the Spurs fall behind 0-2 in a series, they never advance.

In 1993, the Suns took a 2-0 lead on the Spurs and won the series 4-2. Two years later, Houston did the same thing. In 1998, Utah took a 2-0 lead and went on to win the series 4-1. In 2001, the Lakers swept the Spurs in the conference finals.

All four of those teams went on to the NBA Finals.

So what does that mean for Chris Paul and the Hornets? Considering that and the way they’re playing, it might not be wise to bet against them.

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