Check out this piece from our newest writer, Matt Snyder. Matt breaks down Chris Paul’s performance in yesterday’s Game 1 victory against the Los Angeles Lakers…
Chris Paul entered the 2005 NCAA tournament as the heralded sophomore point guard of the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, who rode their considerable regular season success to a no. 2 seed and serious consideration as a title contender. A major reason for the belief was Paul, who had been a revelation, averaging 15.3 points and 6.6 assists on the way to First Team AP All-American honors.
Any hopes of lifting the championship trophy were dashed in the second round of the tournament, where Wake Forest ran into a gritty West Virginia side. The no. 7 seeded Mountaineers pulled off one of the more improbable upsets of the tournament in a grueling, 111-105 double-overtime classic.
Paul left school for the NBA that summer, but I bet he’s never forgotten the bitter disappointment after that loss. That painful memory of being an upset victim must course through the 6’0 point guard’s mind as he pushes himself through workouts.
To say he’s a man of conviction would be a gross understatement. As a high school senior, Paul once scored 61 points in a game to honor his grandfather’s death. One point for each year of his beloved mentor’s life.
On Sunday, Paul enacted his own revenge for 2005, playing the upset card against the heavily favored host Los Angeles Lakers. Paul was a revelation, orchestrating the Hornets’ attack from the opening tip. He made life miserable for the Lakers throughout the course of a crucial 109-100 Game 1 victory.
Legends are cemented in postseason basketball. Paul made a great start to his own, pouring in 33 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and only 2 turnovers against a Lakers side that many consider the favorite to three-peat for the second time in 12 years. Paul had a 7-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That is unreal against a team of the Lakers’ quality.
You could forgive the 25-year-old man for having an eye on the exit sign out of the Hornets organization. He’s gone through the ringer during his time as a Hornet, enduring Hurricane Katrina and successive off seasons which have seen management unable to assemble the requisite supporting cast capable of mounting a legitimate title challenge.
The 2012 offseason looms large—Paul will be a free agent, and there have already been rumors that he is looking to greener pastures where he could compete for a title each year.
But like a true professional, Paul left any distraction at the Staples Center door. He repeatedly picked apart the Lakers defense, using the pick-and-roll to perfection. He kept the defense off-guard, using the space allotted to him by defenders because of his quickness and dangerous capability to drive to the basket, to hit 5 jumpers outside the paint.
He was a man possessed, looking like he was having as much fun playing as he must have years ago when all he had to do for an assist was throw the ball anywhere around the basket, where big man Tyson Chandler could jam home.
A playoff series is no sprint, though, and no one manages the postseason better than Lakers coach Phil Jackson, winner of 11 NBA titles. All the same, grabbing a game on the road was huge for the Hornets, especially considering they they were playing without leading scorer David West.
Bulls point guard Derrick Rose ruled Saturday. Sunday was Chris Paul’s turn to shine. The NBA postseason is notorious for providing glimpses of great guard play. The past decade has seen the likes of Ginobli, Parker, Bryant, Wade and Rondo shine on the way to championships.
The Hornets lack the necessary depth to realistically contend for a title this year, but they provided quite a thrill for what has been an enthralling, pulsating first weekend of playoff basketball.