for this game

Hornets rout Spurs again, grab 2-0 lead

May 6, 2008 - 5:56 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- The second-half adjustments of New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott have put the defending champions in a huge hole.

Chris Paul had 30 points and 12 assists and Peja Stojakovic scored 25 to lead the New Orleans Hornets to a 102-84 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Game Two of their Western Conference semifinal series on Monday night.

With the win, New Orleans goes ahead 2-0 in this best-of-seven series which now switches to the AT&T Center for Game Three on Thursday.

"We were able to protect home," Scott said. "That's the biggest thing. You're still playing against the best team in the league. They are the best team until somebody can knock them off in the playoffs in a four-out-of-seven-game series"

"It's always a worry when you're down two, no matter what it is," Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. "Obviously, the goal is to get four games, and they're a lot closer than we are. So, it's about going home and trying to get this first one."

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich feels the next game will be extremely difficult.

"If we were up 2-0, it would still be tough," Popovich said. "It's the playoffs."

Morris Peterson scored 12 points and David West contributed 10 and 10 rebounds for the Hornets, who became the first team since 2001 to put the Spurs in a hole after the first two games.

New Orleans used another third-quarter effort to create an impressive cushion following the break.

Tony Parker's 3-pointer from the left corner right before the buzzer helped San Antonio forge a 43-42 advantage at intermission. But New Orleans regained the momentum in the third for the second consecutive game.

Stojakovic and Peterson combined for 12 points during a 16-6 surge to open the second half, giving the Hornets a 58-49 advantage with 6:56 remaining.

"The second half was big for us," said Scott, whose club held a 29-17 in the third in Game One. "We came out with aggressiveness."

"They came out and sustained their energy really well in the second half," Popovich said. "In some ways it's the difference of the game (making) you a winner or loser. In general, I thought this team got stronger in the second half and I thought we went the opposite way."

Paul's driving layup at the horn extended the lead to 17 points for the Hornets, who held a commanding 65-37 edge in points through the last two third quarters.

The Spurs drew within 85-76 on a 3-pointer from reigning Sixth Man of the Year Manu Ginobili at 6:58 mark. However, Paul's alley-oop pass to Tyson Chandler sparked a 12-0 burst to put the game out of reach with two minutes left.

"We've got a young bunch of guys that are very, very hungry and they are playing, I guess right now, for respect more than anything," Scott said. "Obviously, we want to win a championship. We're playing for respect as well. There are not a lot of people that feel that we have a real good shot at winning this series."

Paul registered his fifth double-double in the playoffs.

"After Game One, coach told me I was going to have to be more aggressive, so I just tried to pick my spots and get everybody involved and score - and that left me open," Paul said.

"The best way to answer that is to say he's an MVP candidate," Popovich said. "MVP candidates have an impact on the game, big time. He's a great player."

Duncan bounced back from his postseason career-low with 18 points and eight rebounds. The former MVP was held in check with five points on 1-of-9 shooting in Game One.

While Duncan showed up to play in this one, teammate and reigning NBA Finals MVP Tony Parker failed to do the same. Parker finished with just 11 points in 37 minutes.

The Spurs have never come back to win a series after trailing 2-0.

"We're playing against a very good team, and twice they've done the same thing," Parker said. "They jumped on us in the third quarter. From there, you know, we've had a hard time coming back.

"We just have to find a way to play better in the second half, especially in the third quarter. Both games we led at halftime, and in the third quarter, they just jump on us."