Of course, there's always reason to hope... except for in 2001 when the Lakers steamrolled the Spurs. What other playoff series from Spurs or NBA history might offer the good guys from the Alamo City hope against the flopping punks from New Orleans?
1989-90 Western Conference Semifinals, Spurs vs. Portland
Kevin Duckworth injures his hand against Dallas in the first round, prompting rookie David Robinson to muse that he doesn't think anyone on Portland can guard him. Portland's fired up big men lead blowouts in games one and two, leading the national media to write off the upstart Spurs. The Spurs come back and respond with even larger blowouts at the Hemisfair (I can still recall the photo of Willie Anderson dunking beneath the caption "Spurs Answer Back!"). The Spurs would go on to lose both games 5 and 7 in heartbreaking fashion, both in OT.
Lesson: they looked totally overmatched from the opening tip in the first two games, but were the better team for the remainder of the series.
2004 Western Conference Semifinals, Spurs vs. Lakers
The Spurs boatrace the Lakers down the stretch in both home games. They looked younger and hungrier than the grizzled Shaq/Kobe/Payton/Malone Lakers. The series shifted to LA, where they eased up just a bit and got waxed in game 3, then let game 4 slip through their fingers when the Colorado Casanova went from courtroom to court and lit up the good guys in the second half. The Spurs' 3-point shooting, former Sacramento King, European small forward begins to miss after having been a deadeye shooter all series to that point, and goes into the tank for the remainder of the series. I will not speak of what happened next in the series--only to comment that some things, once seen, cannot be unseen, but rather are burned into the retina.
Lesson: If the Hornets ease up in game 3 and the Spurs blow them out, it's back on.
Lesson 2: Even if the Spurs win the series, there is the danger that their flaws will be exposed by a better team in a later round, as with the Lakers and Pistons in the Finals.
2005 NBA Final, Spurs vs. Pistons
The Spurs outclass the Pistons in games 1 and 2 by about 20 points in each game, due largely to hot shooting and lethargic play from the Pistons once the game got out of reach. Game 3 is back and forth until Beno comes in and commits like 10 turnovers in the span of a minute to go from a 2 point lead to a 10 point deficit, and the Pistons are off and running, and are largely the better team for the remainder of the season. Only Robert Horry's being possessed for an hour by the ghost of Larry Bird saves the series (Larry hates the Pistons so much he donated his ghost to the cause of beating them despite reports of his continued existence).
Lesson: The Hornets have looked like the better team, but that's largely on the strength of their shooting be so hot. If they cool off, and the Spurs start making shots, they could get back in the series.
Lesson 2: Even if that happens, the Spurs have put themselves into a precarious position where even if they right the ship and outplay the Hornets, the series could turn on an out-of-the-blue performance from an unlikely contributor (Bonzi Wells?).
So what does this all mean? Is there reason to hope? In all of the above series, a team appeared outclassed early on, only to come back and look like the better team. Think of all the open looks the Spurs were getting, even though they weren't going in. Reggie Miller made some dumbass comment about the Hornets' "awesome" defense after they closed out on a couple of shooters, only to leave Manu with a wide-open three, which he missed.
In the end, I think the Spurs' chances hinge on Manu. If he's just been playing poorly, I think the Spurs still have a chance. If he's hurt, and this is what we can expect from him, then our Spurs are D-U-N done.