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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mavs need to slow down Paul

With a quick behind-the-back dribble, Chris Paul darted left.

Jason Kidd and Jason Terry, who had converged in the back court in an effort to trap the Hornets' playmaker extraordinaire, nearly fell over each other as Paul streaked into the open court.

And there lies the problem for Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson. The Mavs know they have to slow down New Orleans' All-Star point guard, which will often require double teams.

Yet even that doesn't always work against a ball-handling wizard as clever as Paul.

Paul's 35 points and 10 assists in his playoff debut was the talk of the series opener, which the Hornets won 104-92 on Saturday night.

On Sunday, the Mavericks went back to practice, intent on refining a better defensive plan for Paul in Game 2 on Tuesday night.

"We have a couple of ideas," Johnson said. "He's a heck of a player. He's been doing it to everybody all year. . . . We're not going to give away our scouting report, but we just have to make him work on both ends."

Paul's 11 first-half points kept the Hornets within striking distance in an otherwise terrible first half for New Orleans, which trailed by 12 at intermission.

Paul's teammates weren't shooting well, so Paul took pressure off of them by scoring even more. He had 15 in the third quarter, and it seemed contagious.

Hornets forward David West had 15 of his 23 points in the second half and swingman Peja Stojakovic hit a pair of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the second of which iced the game.

Hornets coach Byron Scott said the effect of Paul's scoring spurt was that teammates "started getting open looks."

"He did such a good job of getting to the paint and making buckets, and then, all of a sudden he's getting to the paint and then he's finding" open teammates, Scott said.

"When he's hitting his jump shot and he's getting in the paint, there's really nobody that can stop him."

Paul's rise to stardom has accelerated this season, his third in the NBA. He was a first-time All-Star, averaging 21 points, 11.6 assists and 2.7 steals. He's one of the leading candidates for the league's MVP award.

Now he's getting his first chance to show what he can do in the postseason.

"This is where stars become superstars and I think he definitely has the opportunity to do so," Hornets center Tyson Chandler said.

"The beauty of him as a basketball player and a point guard is he kind of takes the game as it comes to him."

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