SAN ANTONIO — For all the talk about how young and inexperienced Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets are, they've been here before.

It was in the first round.

The Hornets went up 2-0 on the Dallas Mavericks in the opening round of the playoffs, then lost by double digits on the road in Game 3.

So far, it's been the same against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals. But the Hornets are hoping to play out this series the same way as the first.

"It's almost scary how similar it is," Hornets center Tyson Chandler said on Friday. "The same thing happened. I felt like in Dallas in Game 3 we went in there and gave them some life because of our defensive struggles. The same thing happened last night."

In the first round, the Hornets fell to the Mavericks 97-87 in Game 3 before pulling it together to eliminate their opponent in five games. On Thursday, the Spurs beat the Hornets 110-99 to avoid falling into an 0-3 hole from which no NBA team has recovered.

New Orleans coach Byron Scott said he's a little more disappointed in the Game 3 loss in the second round.

"After Game 3 in the last series, you would think you would learn a little bit more, and be a little bit more ready and prepared," Scott said. "But the one positive is the fact that we're still up 2-1."

Despite any similarities, though, the Spurs are the defending champions and definitely not the Mavericks, who have struggled in the past three postseasons, first in the finals in 2006 and then twice in the opening round.

The Spurs have won four championships in the past nine seasons — three in the past five.

"We understand it's a different team, different situation," Paul said. "But we still have a great opportunity to get Game 4."

That's Sunday night in San Antonio.

Scott expects the Spurs, who increased their intensity in Game 3, to play even harder Sunday and that his squad has to pay more attention to details.

"Just the main thing is to get back to focusing on what we're supposed to do on the defensive end," Scott said. "I thought that we started thinking about really trying to just win the game on the offensive end. You're not going to do that against this team."

Offense worked for the defense-oriented Spurs in Game 3. They scored 110 points after getting just 82 and 84 in the first two games.

San Antonio averaged 95.4 points during the regular season and had the best defense in the West, holding opponents to 90.6 points.

Point guard Tony Parker countered Paul's 35 points and nine assists with 31 points and 11 assists. Manu Ginobili added another 31 points as the two repeatedly scored in the paint.

"Tony was aggressive," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after Game 3. "He wasn't aggressive at all in Game 2. I probably had him screwed up trying to get him to make perfect decisions. We know that he's better when he's aggressive and trying to score. That's the approach he took (Thursday), and I thought he did it really well."

The Spurs, who took Friday off to rest, have not been here before — at least not with success.

The last time they were down 0-2 in a series was 2001, when they ended up getting swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference finals.

Scott said before Thursday's game that it's scary for the Spurs to try to venture into uncharted territory, because they just might succeed.

"The biggest theme to me is that the world champions have never come back being down 0-2," he said. "So they've never accomplished that feat. So that scares me. The fact that we've had so many things happen this year that we have never accomplished being accomplished means that obviously they've still got a chance to win this series."