Those of you who thought the San Antonio Spurs were dead and buried -- and you know who you are, and so do I because you've been sending me e-mails questioning my intelligence, sanity and ancestry for saying they were not -- might want to hold that thought after San Antonio's whiz-bang Game 3 win over the New Orleans Hornets.
The Spurs had looked like yesterday's news in their two losses in New Orleans, but Thursday night at home they withstood yet another spectacular game from Chris Paul and got back in the series with an entertaining 110-99 win. For the first time, the Spurs' Big Three -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili -- all had big games, Parker and Ginobili pouring in 31 points each.
Duncan, no longer suffering from the fever that laid him low in Game 2 but still suffering under the Hornets' double-teams, added 16 points and 13 rebounds.
At times the game became a sort of showdown between Paul and Parker, two creative point guards who at their best can't be stopped on the way to the basket. Paul led all scorers with 35 points, many on an assortment of twisting drives that left Spurs defenders flat-footed. One circus shot looked like it was flipped up from directly beneath the basket. Parker added 11 assists, Paul nine.
This postseason is the third-year player's national coming-out party, not that he was an unknown even as a two-year college player at Wake Forest. But Paul seems to be supplanting Dwyane Wade by the minute as the acrobatic, personable guard everybody in America loves. Wade picked the wrong time to play for a 15-67 team, get hurt and start dating Star Jones.
If anybody can make all that look glamorous, it's D-Wade. And he can't.
The Spurs hit their shots -- 48 percent from the field, 44 from behind the 3-point line -- and didn't collapse in the third quarter, and they kept from falling behind 3-0 to a younger, more athletic team. But it still looked like it took everything they had to get the win, and while the Hornets didn't exactly take the night off, they didn't seem to play with the same urgency they had in the first two games. Although a good defense playing well can make a team look like it's not playing with urgency or intensity.
But listen to Parker talking about the impossible task of stopping Paul: "He's going to score," Parker said. "So we decided to put Bruce [Bowen] on Peja [Stojakovic] and at least hold somebody down because Peja was killing us."
At least hold somebody down. Doesn't exactly sound like the defending champs have this series licked, does it? Stojakovic was indeed held down, limited to eight points after going off for 22 and 25 in the first two games. But David West had 23 points and 12 rebounds.
The Spurs might not have done much more than stave off the inevitable Thursday night, but that's something. And they have a way of looking terrible for a while in series they eventually end up winning. So maybe what happened Thursday was that they took the first step down that road. After all, the cliché still stands: The series hasn't really started yet because a home team hasn't lost.
Game 4 is Sunday night. The Spurs might want to put an extra guy on Paul now.