By Toney Blare and Aggrey Sam Pre-game

TB: Playoff fireworks, playoff flames, playoff rally towels, playoff Joey Crawford. And it seems someone we know is trying to find a playoff grape soda.

AS: Meetings held me up, but I make a fashionably late appearance right before the tip. No grape soda, but the pre-game meal of red beans and rice makes up for it. Me and Toney are up top for this one, which isn’t so bad in the playoffs–especially when legit media are actually using the press row baseline seats.

Q1

AS: Stack starts in the place of Jet. Toney will mention later that the Mavs need a spark off the bench. I’m guessing Avery was thinking the same thing. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out the way he planned it.
TB: Dirk and Kidd pick up consecutive fouls on the same Hornets’ possession.

AS: Kidd has two fouls in the first two minutes. So much for veteran savvy. I bet Dallas is missing Devin Harris right about now.

TB: The “TCP” Oop has become the signature play of N.O. resurgence this season. They connect on the first try, but Tyson misses on the second, a reverse attempt.

AS: Dave West is more hype than usual. I missed Game 1 due to being in Arkansas (check the site later for a recap of that) last weekend, but I saw the highlights, which included West sticking his finger in Dirk’s face. If a grown man does that to another grown man, grown man rules stipulate you must: a) fight him, b) knock it out of his face or c) bite it, as Toney suggests.
TB: Booooooo for…Stack? The hometown crowd has recently taken to booing on every possession for quarters at a time, regardless of which opposing player has the ball. Far as I can remember, Stack never did anything to them. Or did they rent him a time-share once?

AS: Feels like a college crowd, which I love. As for Stack, he’s currently in his fifth incarnation. He went from young high-flying undersized power forward at UNC, to next Mike pretender, to polished scorer, to clutch veteran who can still take over for stretches, to simply hanging on. Research that time-share line if you didn’t get it. I remember my boy in high school having a go-go tape (this was like ’98) and Big G from the Backyard Band (aka Slim Charles from The Wire) saying “Jerrrry Staaaackhouse!” was in the club, which we all found amazing. Memories.
TB: CP3 drives and does the ball fake on Damp, 12-9 Bees, timeout, Avery.

AS: Damp, Kidd and Josh Howard all have two fouls. So does Dave West, but Byron Scott isn’t a fan of substitutions.

TB: You know one reason why this crowd is so good? Just like in Oakland last year, the prices are low enough that your average New Orleanian can swing it. Hope it stays that way next season.

AS: Politic ditto.

TB: Damp sends a message elbow at D-West’s elbow. Message received, West drops a long two. That’s about enough from “the center position.”

AS: Ghana Diop would be nice to have right about now. Do you realize Josh Howard and Brandon Bass (throw in Dirk if you want) are the only two young players with potential on the Mavs?

TB: Peja hits a runner of the glass. I’ve been saying for a week: the Bees need him to win at least one game for them this series.

AS: I’d like to see Bonzi win them a game, as well. Don’t sleep. He’s a playoff killer.

TB: DWest again, and he’s amped, alright. 23-19. When he hits another a few minutes later to stretch the lead to 8, the timeout is followed by “Bang on the Drums All Day,” which next year, oughta be replaced by “Hey Pocky Way.” Oughta.

AS: Can you see Avery coaching the Bulls next year, if they’re patient enough to wait for Cuban to fire him after this series? I can. They play D (let’s ignore this season), they have a young core that won’t grow weary of his motivating tactics and they don’t have the owner-star player dynamic I speculate bothers him about Dallas.

TB: Peja drops a 3, DWest catches a lob on the break. JT 3, then CP3 hits a 2 in Dirk’s grill. 39-29.

AS: Although I’ll later complain about Byron’s non-subbing and the Hornets letting Dallas cut the deficit to about 16 (put your foot on their necks!), CP’s buzzer-beater to end the quarter effectively ended the game.

Q2

TB: Brandon Bass owns the Hornets, has all season. They gave him up and Aggrey says Bass blamed Louisiana hometown cooking (Bass is from Baton Rouge) for his slow rookie year. I feel that. I ate muffalettas every other day for a month when I got back, blew up. Not a good look when you’re my height.

AS: My man Shaun Dumas from Xavier (the NAIA school; he was a “Picture Me Ballin’” back in the fall) says Bass told him changing his diet is what led to his productive season. He could have really helped the Hornets as a physical big off the bench this year, but I’m glad he’s doing well in Dallas.

TB: Bonzi vs. Stack, Julian Wright vs. J-Ho. Tag-team cage match of the century.

AS: The Mavs have no legit backup point guard (I don’t count Tyronne Lue, since he never plays) or center. Also, Hilton Armstrong (no longer Motel 6) is playing well.
TB: It’s 42-31 when I point out Juwan Howard and Dirk standing up on the sideline, encouraging the reserves, or something. I guess that’s the, uh, leadership on this Dallas team?

AS: I would have never thought Juwan would be the last of the Fab Five to be in the League back in the early ’90s. I swear Jalen could still help a team, but I’m a little biased when it comes to him.

TB: That’s two steals for Bonzi!

AS: The Honeybees come out in some orange retro skirts that I’m not feeling. Toney notes that they look like “regular clothes.” That’s the problem.
TB: Peja hits a three, and a group of hypemen runs along the baseline with giant Peja heads on sticks, like great, smiling Serb popsicles. Jesus. It freaks me the hell out.

AS: He’s right. They were scary/bizarre. But Peja seems inspired by them.
TB: Contrast: the great Jason Kidd: shot blocked. Jannero Pargo: reverse lay-up on the break. Then he follows a Damp dunk with a 3.

AS: Looks like Tyson saved his shot blocking for the playoffs. Pargo got his groove back down the stretch run of the regular season, which is very necessary for N.O. He went into a little bit of a funk following the trade for Bonzi, but is doing his gunner-off-the-bench thing nicely now.
TB: Then Peja hits another 3, 57-45, and his heads float by again as Avery calls a timeout.

AS: The “M-V-P” chants for CP are starting early. They’re justified.
TB: Stack misses an open 3 to end the half, 67-51 N.O.

Halftime

TB: Hornets GM Jeff Bower strolls past me as I stand in the tunnel, unassuming as ever. Dude should get a vote or two for exec of the year. And dig it—Bonzi Wells is a part of that.

AS: Toney just compared CP to “an angry Tibetan protester.” You had to be there.

TB: West had 18 in the 1st half, and seemed huge. Dirk had 16, and I would’ve believed it was 5 if you told me that.

AS: West plays like an old-school power forward. Not Buck Williams, not Karl Malone, but somebody. Help me out. Also, Brandon Bass is the Mavs’ go-to guy now, I’m convinced.
Q3

TB: A German reporter is sitting next to us, interesting dude named Heiko Oldcarp. He motions towards the Mavs and says, “The time has passed for them, I think.” Very metaphysical, and perhaps very true.

AS: Blow up the Mavs. Not that it hasn’t been said before, but they have to trade Dirk. He’d rather be a second option anyway and he’s the only piece besides Josh Howard–and you can’t trade him, as he’s younger and more valuable to a re-shaped roster in the long-term, says me–that will bring back some good pieces. This isn’t a panic statement.
TB: CP3 sweeps across the top of the key, killing the trap, drives, gets contact and hits the shot. Been like this all damn year, I don’t know why anyone tries, especially when the help is a lead foot center.

AS: Josh Howard now has four fouls. Avery puts Devean George on CP. Peja hits a fading trey to beat the shot clock, then another. Bad times for Dallas.

TB: Peja 2, Peja 3, bring out the heads. 80-58, another timeout for, as someone outside the arena later says, “Poor Avery.” Man, it’s come to that.

AS: Avery to Chicago sounds more realistic now, doesn’t it?
TB: Somewhere, I imagine, Nellie sits in a game room with all the windows open, sips a Michelob, scratches his dog behind the ears, and doesn’t give a damn. Tell me this: would you trade Golden State’s talent for Dallas’?

AS: Hell no. I wouldn’t trade the Kings’ talent for the Mavs’ right about now.

TB: If you ever come down to New Orleans, and you have nowhere to go around dawn, there’s a bar on Oak St. and Hillary called “Snake n’ Jake’s” that doesn’t close til morning. I’ve done a bit of damage there, once lived around the corner for a year, and if you’re ever in there and still coherent, check out the Schlitz beer sign near the door. The photo of the man’s man sipping a big mug of Schlitz? Looks just like the Peja heads.

AS: Or you could just go to Bourbon Street like all the other tourists.

TB: MO-PETE! A 3, a 3, a 2—what? 90-66.

AS: Somebody’s having a Flint flashback. Maybe Mateen Cleaves could help Dallas.

TB: Whenever CP3 hits a shot now, they don’t just play that Ric Flair “Whoo!” They show a clip of Ric and CP3. Which is pretty cool, except that Flair looks like an old drag queen.

AS: They gotta bring Ric Flair back for the second round. Yup, I’m already saying Round 2.
TB: Booooo Dirk. I mean, at this point, I could laugh, I could cry, but I can’t really boo the dude. This career is getting straight up angst-ridden, more Faust than Bird. Sell your soul, dude.

AS: Who’s more suicidal right now, T-Mac or Dirk? I say Dirk because he’s had a taste. Can’t miss something you’ve never had.

TB: Emcee Rob Nice wears a shirt that says “Underdogs Are Cool,” which I guess refers to the #2 seed? I like the mindset, though, Nice, and I like the style.

AS: The Honeybees lose the orange outfits. Much better. 99-79, Hornets after three.

Q4

TB: Dirk hits a 3, cuts it to 16. So then CP3 takes the Mavs’ trap and breaks it to pieces yet again, blows by the entire defense, hits a layup.

AS: CP is playing chess, not checkers. West strips Dirk clean at the top of the key. That’s a broken man.
TB: TCP Oop 110-91.

AS: Avery puts Kidd in the post against CP to run the two-man game with Dirk on the wing, which would be smart, except for two things: Kidd can’t really score in the post against him and when the Hornets double from the weak side, Dirk doesn’t really have space to operate.

TB: Damp misses two shots from under the hoop. Daaaaamp.

AS: I ask Toney for an over-under on when Byron subs out the starters, or at least CP. He says under two minutes. Stay tuned.
TB: Bonzi lay-up and there it is, the greatest graphic ever: Bonzi’s very, uh, jolly face, spinning like a top, and then the word “Bonzi” in Asiatic font, with a tree—a Bonzai tree, but still—below the letters. I tell Aggrey that if they had Bonzi heads on sticks ala Peja, it would seriously scare the ish outta not a few Portland residents. Here, though, the people love him.

AS: If he won’t say it, I will. Bonzi looks high as a kite in that pic. Libel, slander–except it could be true.

TB: CP3 hits a long 2, Damp complies with a foul, and the MVP chants erupt.

AS: West with a trey to beat the shot clock. Everything’s going right for the Hornets. If they can take a game in Dallas, this thing is over in five.
TB: Jason Kidd looks old, Aggrey says. Yeah, I say, he even has loose skin on the back of his head. For real, that’s how it looks on the jumbotron.

AS: Byron subs the starters with under four minutes to go. He’s learning.
TB: Look at the Mavs bench. Compare that to, say, Detroit’s. Dallas is like one of those Yankee teams that kept selling off pitching prospects for sluggers and now doesn’t have the necessary depth/fire to win the big games. Who’s the heart? What’s the identity? There was never much defense, but what exactly is the offense? I’m not saying this series is over, but there’s no way this team gets to the West finals, not this year or next.

AS: Trade Dirk now or it’s back to the Lorenzo Williams days. They won’t be able to build through the draft, unless they luck out and get another Josh Howard, which isn’t likely. Cuban has been contradictory on his decisions, like letting Nash leave (less notable was the Antawn Jamison-for-Stack trade), but trading for Kidd. Start over.
TB: Instead of Ric Flair and CP3, what about Classy Freddie Blassie and Mike James? What?

AS: FYI, I’ve got another photo shoot with a Honeybee tomorrow. A post should be up sooner than later.

TB: Juwan Howard, last of the Fab 5, is beaten by Hilton Armstrong, +1. Whenever Hilton scores, they play “Thundercats, hoooo.” No idea how all of that fits together, but I feel old somehow.

AS: Remembering my fellow Temple alum Eddie Jones as a college player makes me feel old. Who am I kidding? I remember Dallas assistant Mario Elie doing the “Kiss of Death” to Phoenix in his Rocket days like it was yesterday.

TB: Oh, that’s my favorite buddy team right there! Ryan Bowen and Julian Wright! Bowen gets the steal, taps it out to Ju Ju for a monster slam. That connect is definitely named “Another 48 Hours.”

AS: My favorite buddy team, inactive or not, is Birdman and my man Rasual Butler, who came out to speak to kids after a PeacePlayers International workout a couple weekends ago.

TB: An older lady down the way from us has been honking a little bike horn all game. She’s wasted at this point, but it still gets my attention. Crazy bird.

AS: I wanted to snatch that thing out of her damn hands, but that would have spoiled the evening. Hornets win, 127-103. CP finishes with 32 and 17 dimes. And he’s not MVP?

TB: With time running out, Ju Ju blows a dunk off a lob by trying to double pump. It doesn’t matter even one bit.

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