PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; 76ers lead 2-0.
Entering a playoff game without their leading scorer is nothing new for the Hornets. Just having a playoff game is brand new to New Orleans.
Likely to be without an injured Jamal Mashburn, the Hornets try to avoid falling into an 0-3 hole in their first-round series with the Philadelphia 76ers as the city of New Orleans hosts a postseason contest for the first time.
The Hornets are playing their first season in New Orleans after relocating from Charlotte. The Jazz played five years in the Big Easy before moving to Utah, but never reached the postseason.
It will be much tougher for the Hornets to win the first NBA playoff game in the city due to the absence of the player who averaged a team-high 21.6 points during the regular season.
Mashburn dislocated and chipped a bone in the middle finger of his right hand—his shooting hand—in the Hornets’ 90-85 loss to Philadelphia in Game 2 on Wednesday. The All-Star forward did not practice Thursday and coach Paul Silas said the injury appeared serious enough to keep Mashburn out of Game 3.
“The thing is really swollen,” Silas said. “We’ve just got to win, and we can. With Baron (Davis) in there pushing the basketball, we’ll be fine. I just really believe it.”
Silas has reason to believe, considering the Hornets ousted the Orlando Magic from the first round of last year’s playoffs despite Mashburn missing all but 10 minutes of that series due to positional vertigo.
“Knowing those guys, there is no quit in any of them,” 76ers center Derrick Coleman said. “They are going to go out there and give it their all more than anything, even with the injuries that they have.”
New Orleans, however, needs to have Davis at least close to full strength to avoid being pushed to the brink of elimination. The point guard, who turned 24 less than two weeks ago, sat out Game 2 with an injured left knee but is expected to return for Saturday’s contest.
“We’re lucky that we sat him down, now that Mashburn’s out,” Silas said. “Last year with Mash out, Baron was almost giving me triple-doubles, so he’s going to have to come back and do that again.”
With Mashburn sidelined for last year’s postseason, Davis posted triple-doubles while totaling 61 points in Games 3 and 4 against the Magic to lift the Hornets to victory in that series.
If Davis is ineffective, as he was in Game 1 when he was hampered by the knee injury and foul problems, the Hornets could struggle to keep pace offensively with the Sixers.
Allen Iverson scored 55 points in the series opener, then had 29 in Game 2 when many of his teammates came to life at the offensive end. The frontcourt of Keith Van Horn, Kenny Thomas and Derrick Coleman combined for 40 points after accounting for just 11 on 4-of-16 shooting in Game 1.
“The guys knew what they had to do to get over the hump,” Iverson said. “It makes it that much easier on me, takes more pressure off me and lets me concentrate on the defensive end.”
The Hornets have never won a playoff series in which they’ve lost the first two games, and no team in NBA history has come back from an 0-3 deficit.
Game 4 is Monday in New Orleans.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: 76ers - 48-34, 4th seed. Hornets - 47-35, 5th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: 76ers - Iverson, 42.0 ppg; Thomas, 9.0 rpg; Snow, 7.5 apg. Hornets - Mashburn, 21.0 ppg; Magloire and Robert Traylor, 6.5 rpg; Davis, 6.0 apg.
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Hornets, 2-1. The teams split two meetings in Philadelphia, and the Hornets won 99-98 on Wesley’s buzzer-beater in the only meeting at New Orleans. Mashburn totaled 64 points in the Hornets’ two wins, but just 18 in their loss. Iverson averaged 32.3 points in the series.