David West scored a playoff career-high 30 points to spark the New Orleans Hornets past San Antonio 101-82 on Saturday in the opener of their NBA playoff series.
Serbian sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic added 22 points while playmaker Chris Paul scored 17 points and passed out 13 assists to spark the Hornets as they won easily to start the Western Conference best-of-second round series.
The Hornets, who split four regular-season meetings with the Spurs, showed why they had the second-best record in the West, overpowering the reigning NBA champions in the second half.
“We came out with a lot more energy,” West said. “They were outhustling us to the loose balls. We have the fresher legs, younger legs. We want to be the aggressor the entire series.”
San Antonio’s Tim Duncan equaled a career low with only five points, hitting only 1-of-9 shots from the field thanks to impressive and tenacious defense from the Hornets, who swarmed the All-Star forward like their insect namesakes.
“We don’t want to give him any easy baskets,” West said. “We want to keep two or three guys running at him the entire series.”
The Hornets, who had 15 rebounds and 10 points from Tyson Chandler, went on a 13-0 run to seize a 61-54 lead in the third quarter, a run of six successful shots in a row capped by a 3-pointer from Stojakovic.
The Spurs, seeking their fifth title in 10 seasons, have become the symbol of everything the Hornets, a long-struggling team that moved from Charlotte only to spend two seasons at Oklahoma City because of Hurricane Katrina.
“The past couple of years, we’re chasing these guys,” West said. “We’ve been trying to build what these guys have. Over the course of the season, we feel we’ve been able to do that.”
French guard Tony Parker led the Spurs with 23 points while Argentine guard Manu Ginobili came off the bench to score 19 points and Bruce Bowen added 17 for San Antonio, which will try to equalize in game two today.
“No excuses. No concern,” Ginobili said. “We’re just going to try to fight and play a better game.”
Game one was hit with a 20-minute delay after the first quarter after fire extinguishers were called upon because a hoop used for a stunt during a timeout continued to blaze despite attempts to snuff it out.
The Hornets’ mascot leaped off a trampoline through a blazing hoop and made a slam dunk but the hoop fire would not go out and fire extingushers caused a slick floor that required a careful cleanup to avoid any risk of injury to players.
Officials asked for more cleaning after Parker slipped and fell to the floor five minutes into the second quarter and canceled half-time activities so more time could be spent cleaning off the court.
“It’s not just happening to us. It’s happening to them too. The floor is slick for both teams,” Spurs guard Bruce Bowen said. “It was important for us to keep our minds on attacking, things of that nature.”
Ginobili, nursing a sore ankle, was forced to go into hallways near the locker room during the unexpected lull and keep moving the sore spot.
“I felt pretty good. I’ve got to try to keep it warm all the time,” Ginobili said. “I have to keep the blood pumping in that area. I’m going to be fine.”
The Hornets opened with an 8-0 run, serving notice at the start how much they had earned their home-court edge and second seed status in the Western Conference.