San Antonio was facing down a tough challenge in game 3, and as it turns out, they really are up for the challenge. With two point guards playing at very high levels, this was the best game of the series so far. 1Q New Orleans jumped out to a quick lead, running up a fast 8 points. Ginobili, who started the game, then stepped it up. Manu was noticeably more aggressive this game, as he consistently went to the rack and tried to draw fouls. As the first quarter went on, it is obvious that San Antonio is being much more active on defense, as Bowen made a HUGE play to close out the first with a block on CP3′s fast break attempt. At the close of the first, Spurs had 21, while Paul had 14 of the Hornets 23. 2Q While the Spurs passing is still a bit wild, it isn’t as bad as it was in New Orleans. Manu continued to attack the rim, and Finley had what is quite possibly his biggest defensive play of the playoffs, as he got off his feet to disrupt a lob pass. San Antonio would have a long ways to go though, as the offensive boards were looking better, but the defensive rotation still seems a bit slow. San Antonio would get the ball back with .8 seconds on the clock, and Ginobili would beat the buzzer, with 2 less than New Orleans at the break. 3Q There was much evidence throughout the third that the Hornets set much more solid screens than the Spurs, but either way, Paul and Parker were each taking as much advantage of them as they could. As time ticked on, it appears that CP3 graduated the ‘Reggie Miller Acting Clinic’ with honors. Also, Duncan was not used much offensively to this point, but he was efficient. San Antonio finally came out of the third with a lead, 83-78. 4Q Wells would make a mistake at the beginning of the quarter, fouling Ginobili on the 3 point shot, giving him a 4 point play. Moments later, Ginobili would feed a beautiful pass to Tony for an easy layup. From that point on, the game’s excitement eased up, as the Spurs maintained a lead until Byron Scott decided to look ahead to game 4. Spurs gather up a win, 110-99. Review While it appears on the surface that San Antonio played magnificently better tonight than the first 2 games, that is not the case. They were more aggressive on the offensive boards, they turned it over no more than the Hornets did, had more assists, and made as many 3s as the Hornets attempted. New Orleans may have shot better overall, but 11 of 25 behind the arc is a definite advantage in the final score. There is still no indication that the Spurs have taken it to a level that the Hornets can’t overcome, they simply made more shots tonight. Duncan didn’t have a spectacular game, but his presence was more noticeable, especially on defense. The bench played marginally better, but still have a long way to go, as every starter except Ginobili and Thomas played 40 minutes, and Ginobili wasn’t far off. It remains to be seen how much energy the Spurs will take to game 4. To Tie The Series The bench still needs to step up. Finley was 3 for 5 behind the arc ….. and that was about it. Oberto grabbed boards off the bench, but it’s clear he should have more, as he tends to tip it volleyball style, often to the Hornets, just as often as he actually grabs it. Chandler and Stojakovich will come back strong in game 4, and the defense has to be ready for them. This series is far from over, and the Spurs need to find another level to step up to, and show these young pups that they don’t know it all ….. yet. Highlights Parker: 31 pts, 11 assists Ginobili: 31 pts, 6 assists, many hustle plays Duncan: 16 pts, 13 boards, 4 blocks Paul: 35 pts, 9 assists, 1 turnover West: 23 pts, 12 boards, 3 blocks Chandler: 12 pts, 8 boards Things I Think I Think I know I’m not standing on the court, and these refs are there because they’re good at what they do, but seeing eerily similar plays from each team, the foul and travel calls inside of 18 feet seem to favor the Hornets. Oberto’s desire to rebound is suspect, as he is in position often enough, that he should probably be averaging close to 20 boards a game. The refs don’t like Kurt Thomas. Like I often told the kids when I was coaching, it’s more fun to play offense than defense, so if you don’t let the other team grab a defensive rebound, you’ll play less defense — San Antonio is still weak on the offensive boards, they must LOVE playing defense. It is obvious by now, that the only person in the NBA that can make Chris Paul have a bad game, is Chris Paul.