Hornets Happenings | Hornets & Rockets Lose, Western Conference Playoffs Set

Paul AugustinCorrespondent IApril 16, 2009

SAN ANTONIO - JANUARY 31:  Guard Tony Parker #9 of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets on January 31, 2009 at AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

James Posey missed three out of four free throws in the closing minute of regulation, and the Hornets allowed Michael Finley to come off of a Tim Duncan screen to drain a three-ball at the buzzer to send the game into overtime.

The Spurs owned the Hornets in OT and closed out last year's division champs 105-98 in front of a sellout crowd at the AT&T Center in San Antonio. By virtue of their victory over the Hornets, combined with the Mavericks surprising win over the Rockets, San Antonio is crowned division champs.

The Spurs shot 70 percent in OT, led by Tim Duncan, who was 3-3 in the extra period. Hornets shooters Peja Stojakovic and Rasual Butler remained in their slumps, combining for an anemic 6-19 from the floor.

On the bright side for the Hornets, Tyson Chandler returned to the lineup for the first time in 16 games, and looked solid in 20 minutes of first half play. Chandler tossed in 10 points in the losing effort, going 4-5 from the floor, and added three boards.

While the Hornets were carried again by a combined 60 points from All-Stars David West and Chris Paul, the Spurs had five players in double figures, spearheaded by Tony Parker, who had 29.

Duncan added 20 for the Southwest Division champs, and was supported well by Michael Finely with 17, including his dramatic shot at the buzzer, Ima Udoka with 12, and Drew Gooden with 11.

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Look Ahead to Conference Playoffs

No. 1 Lakers vs. No. 8 Jazz—While this will likely not be a sweep for Los Angeles, expect no worse than a Lakers victory in six games, probably five.

No. 2 Nuggets vs. No. 7 Hornets—As I wrote in my article earlier this week, (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/155804-hornets-hype-funeral-services-will-be-held-today) New Orleans is the team that Nuggets fans least want to play.

While the matchups favor the Hornets in this series, unless New Orleans shooters Butler and Stojakovic get back into the groove, this series will go to the Nuggets. At this point, as they say, this is a game time decision—A toss-up.

No.3 Spurs vs. No. 6 Mavericks - Although the Spurs looked strong in knocking the Hornets out of the sixth playoff spot and locking up the division, I see an upset coming in this series. The two teams split their series this season, with neither having a home court advantage. 

The deciding factor in this is the loss of Manu Ginoblii for the Spurs. It will be tough to replace his 20 points per game and clutch play. Mavericks will win in seven.

No. 4 Portland vs. No. 5 Houston—Both the Trail Blazers and the Rockets have done very well this season. Portland is hot, winning nine out of their last 10 games. I will go with the hot hand in this series. Portland will win in seven games.

Keep in mind that my predictions, along with $0.99, will get you something off of the value menu at Wendy's or McDonald's. Whatever happens and whatever team you follow, there should be some exciting basketball coming out of the West.