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Except from the three-point line, that is.
That arc has really been an achilles heel for Chris Paul and the Hornets thus far in the playoffs, huh? Granted, the young point guard isn't a great three-point shooter to begin with (36.9 percent for the season), but he has really been putrid throughout the first two games of his maiden voyage to the playoffs. The man is shooting zero percent from deep. Yep, zero. Goose egg. Count 'em for yourself and see.
Of course, what you'll see if you do indeed count 'em for yourself is just how facetious that last paragraph is: Paul has taken a total of three shots from beyond the arc in his first two playoff games. Sure, he's missed them all. But he hasn't missed much else.
Apparently, nobody told Paul that the actual voting for the NBA's Most Valuable Player award occurs at the end of the regular season. Or maybe -- going out on a real limb here, we know -- this guy might just be in it for more than the individual hardware.
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What a player.
Zero career playoff games appeared in prior to Saturday. A disappointing finish to his NCAA career with a painful Wake Forest loss to West Virginia in double-overtime in the second round of the 2005 NCAA tournament, likely the last truly big game in which he played.
Two games into Paul's playoff tenure, none of that seems to be on his mind. At all.
He has absolutely torched the Dallas Mavericks twice in as many games, and it has been a pleasure to witness. Paul's array of floaters, stutter-step drives to the basket and his flashy dishing have completely undone the Mavs to start the series.
By now, you've likely heard the numbers, but they are worth reiterating: He had 24 second-half points in Game 1, en route to 35 points and 10 assists on 15-of-23 shooting. This was followed by 32 points, 17 dimes and 5 assists on 10-for-16 shooting.
The numbers are spectacular, and they don't deceive. The point guard and MVP candidate has been just that good thus far.
Simply put, he has made his opponents look over-matched thus far, particularly thanks to his quickness. In my initial commentary about this series, I suggested that Jason Kidd's veteran playoff savvy and renewed interest as a Maverick would vault him to an effort good enough to neutralize the playoff neophyte that is Paul. There is one especially critical problem with that theory: All the 'renewed interest' in the world doesn't suddenly allow doesn't allow one guy to stay with a dude who is a world quicker than he is.
That would be a fairly apt description of Paul. One of the fleetest players in the game, Paul may never need to shoot those deep jumpers we joked about at the outset of this piece. Jason Kidd and Jason Terry have shown zero ability thus far to prevent Paul from using his excellent footwork and explosive first step to get in the lane. Once this man is in the lane, he is generally going to do whatever it is that he feels like doing. If Paul has any room -- which is often the case when he beats his guy -- he is releasing that deadly righty floater of his and likely hitting it. If there is no defender close enough in help to force the floater, he'll forget that and continue right on in for a lay-up, which is fairly common for a guy with a stutter-step as effective as Paul's is.
But if the rest of the defense actually decides to show up in the paint, Paul gets to make what is likely his favorite choice: to facilitate. He can kick to David West for his lethal mid-range jumpers, to Peja Stojakovic, Mo Pete and Jannero Pargo for treys far more accurate than his own and to Ty Chandler (and just about anyone else willing to cut) for all sorts of lay-ups and dunks inside. He sees the floor beautifully and takes care of the ball well, turning it over 2.5 times per game during the regular season and just four times total in his first two playoff games.
Being able to deal with this guy virtually necessitates near-perfect help defense or the ability for Paul's man to keep the youngster in front of him and away from the basket, hopefully forcing CP3 into shooting a few long jumpers, which seems to be the weakest part of his game. For now, the Mavs need not worry about that, as they have neither the help nor the speed at guard.
But Chris Paul certainly does have that speed. And two games in, he is using it to wreak more postseason havoc than just about anyone could have expected.