Robert Horry: The more things change, the more they don't. Around this time last year, Cheap Shot Rob thugged Steve Nash and set off a chain of events that will haunt the Phoenix Suns franchise forever. Now, did Horry know that Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were going to jump off the Suns bench to see what happened to their fallen teammate? Of course not. But Horry did know that he was delivering a much-harder-than-necessary foul after the outcome of the game had already been decided. The only point of taking Nash out at that moment was, well, taking Nash out.
It was the same deal last night. There were still 10 minutes left in the game, but the Spurs were leading by 21 and the Hornets -- with the exception of Chris Paul -- were going down rather quietly. But that's when Horry chose to strike, setting a pick that literally took David West out of the game. Here's the video from Odenized.
Now, some people immediately dismissed the play as a "hard foul" and/or "playoff basketball." And to those people I say: Shenanigans. Horry measured West and gave him a shot right in the lower back. Horry knew West's back was injured. Everybody knew West's back was injured. It was a textbook example of a cheap shot.
Look, I've played a lot of basketball over the years, both organized and not-so-organized. Stuff like that doesn't happen by accident. It just doesn't. And if you think otherwise, then you're fooling yourself. Horry measured West and gave him a really hard -- and clearly illegal, since it resulted in an offensive foul -- shot into a part of West's body that was known to be injured. Did Horry intend to take West out of the game, or even incapacitate him for Game 7? Probably not. But that barely makes the act any less senseless. And whether he meant for it to happen or not, there's a pretty good likelihood that West will be far from 100 percent for Game 7. Which is a pretty good tradeoff for a simple offensive foul, isn't it?
And for those of you who are inevitably going to defend Mr. Cheap Shot, go ahead and answer this question in your defense: How would you react if you were playing pickup basketball and somebody purposely took a shot at your injured back/knee/ankle/whatever? Would you laugh it off as just a good, hard basketball play? Or would you want to strangle the guy?
Evil Ted's take: "After watching the Horry incident in regular and slow motion, I told Basketbawful that it looked mild, and that West shouldn't be playing professional basketball if his back can't sustain a hit like that. Of course, with each passing moment, I had to add preface after preface to my opinion. First, with West's pre-existing back condition, it makes the hit far more nefarious -- a true 'Sweep the leg' Cobra Kai moment. Second, if the hit had ever been issued to a bad-back-plagued Larry Bird and he went down, I would want blood and lots of it. Third, the hit illustrates the true subtle genius of the Spurs.
"They play basketball nowadays about as 'dirty' as any team in the league, but no casual basketball observer (that includes NBA officials, whom I now consider 'casual basketball observers,' by the way) could ever quite put a finger on what the Spurs are doing. From Ginobli flopping to the Duncan face to the Parker Oscar nominations to the Bowen foot defense to the Horry picks...every questionable thing the Spurs do must be analyzed in slow motion from ten different angles to determine whether there was intent or chicanery on a given play. No other team in the league has come close to perfecting this subtlety. It is very clear most of the time when other teams in the league are playing dirty -- they know nothing but shoving, clotheslining, punching, elbowing, kicking, etc. Many of us may despise the Spurs, but give them this: They have 100% perfected playing "their style" within the constraints of the league's rules and the officials' perceptions.
Historical precedent: Hey, Evil Ted: You might want to avoid this one for fear of the resulting bloodlust. Chuck Person put a hard pick straight into Larry Bird's achy-breaky back in Game 5 of the 1991 first round series between the Pacers and Celtics. Everybody knew what Person had done, but it was "only" a foul, right? Boston still won that game and moved on to the second round, but Person's cheap shot set off back spasms that were bad enough to force Bird to miss the first game of the Celtics' second round series with the Pistons. Not coincidentally, Boston lost that game.
Flopfest '08: Last night's game was competitive until the all-important third quarter, then everything fell apart for the Hornets. In a one minute, five second span, Chris Paul got called for two offensive fouls -- his third and fourth personals of the game -- and David West got numbers two and three, which were followed a couple minutes later by number four. All of a sudden, the Hornets were in foul trouble and the Spurs were rolling out to a huge lead. Game, set, match.
And, naturally, some of those critical fouls came courtesy of San Antonio's ongoing flopstravaganza. The NBA: Where The World Cup happens.
Mark Jackson: Shame on Action Jackson for repeatedly defending the Spurs' flop-a-thon. I wonder how he'd feel if he was playing or coaching against the Spurs in this situation?
David West: Even before Horry took him out, you could tell West just didn't have it. He had 10 points on 4-for-14 shooting, and both his mobility and ability to mix it up in the paint were limited. But that's pretty much what happens when somebody plays basketball with a bad back.
Peja Stojakovic: He scored 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, which isn't terrible...unless you consider that, with West already hurting, the Hornets absolutely needed him to have a great game. But Peja has been almost entirely taken out of this series by Bowen's defense. Which is hard to believe, given Peja's rich history of playoff success. [/sarcasm]
Morris Peterson: The "fifth starter" for the Hornets, Mo Pete provided a listless performance: 3 points, 1-for-5 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 assists. And in case you didn't realize this, New Orleans needs a solid contribution from every starter because of...
The New Orleans bench: Other than Julian Wright (8 points, 4-for-8), the Hornets got no significant contributions off the bench. Jannero Pargo (2 points, 1-for-6, zero assists), Bonzi Wells (zero points, 0-for-3), and Melvin Ely (5 points, 1-for-3) were awful. It's never good when you have to get 80-90 points out of your starting five every game, but that's where the Hornets are right now.
Road teams: They are now 1-20 in the second round. And counting.