In the opener the Hornets also got an otherworldly performance from Rice, arguably the best streak shooter in the game today. Hitting from all angles on 15 of 19 from the floor, including 13 in a row at one point, Rice outdueled Smith (13 of 22,35 points) down the stretch. When Rice cooled off in Game 2, the Hornets put the ball in the hands of Anthony Mason, and their brutish point forward controlled the game from the low post (10 of 13,25 points). Cowens hasn't always gotten along with Mason, but after last Saturday night's game he did everything but carry the dour nine-year veteran off the court on his shoulders. He also lauded Divac, who, said Cowens, "inspired everyone on our team" with his rebounding, blocked shots and creative passing.
Divac reciprocated. "He comes to me and asks me, 'What do you think we should do in this situation?' " the center said. "Not many coaches will do that. He's part of this team, not someone with an office down the hall. He's one of us."
On the other hand, the coach was having trouble hiding his displeasure with Matt Geiger, the backup center who sat out Game 1 with a pulled hamstring. Geiger returned to play four ineffective minutes in Game 2, but only after Cowens said he was "very disappointed" in his gimpy big man. Following the game, Cowens said his team was shorthanded because "Matt's still got an ass pull or whatever it is." The coach was asked how many playoff games he missed with pulled muscles during his playing career. "I never missed a playoff game," Cowens said, curtly. He was never happy until the last playoff game was won, an attitude that seems to have trickled down to his team. "I don't like happy players," Cowens said. "I want them to maintain their edge. I want them to think that when we take the floor, we're not playing games, we're going to war."
Well, it was bound to happen. The man wins two playoff games, and already he sounds like an NBA coach.