The Hornets beat the Grizzlies
Man, last night was a trip. I really don't have the time, transport or cash to attend every Hornets game right now, but with Cox pissing about with my cable hook-up, my only way to see the game last night was to get my ass to the Arena.
Damn glad I did.
To hell with it, I'm gonna pour out a bunch of notes I took at the game last night. Might be a long post, but we'll give it a try…
I'm running late, and only get to my seat with 6:13 left in the first quarter, and the Hornets up 13-8. I just missed Morris Peterson leave the game for good after re-aggravating that back strain, and now Pargo is in with the starters.
The Grizzlies are looking inside every time and catching the Hornets in mismatches. Watching Pargo trying to guard Darko Milicic in the post isn't fun.
2:17 and West had it going early (9 points on 4-of-8 shooting), but Scott pulls him for Melvin Ely and his fantastic hair. Ely proceeds to mess up in as many ways possible, first almost colliding with Tyson for a rebound, then bricking a wide open 17-footer. Next defense he gets left in the dust by Grizz QB Kyle Lowry, who somehow misses the easy deuce, but Ely gives it right back to Memphis with a 3 second call on the other end. Damn, Melvin.
With time ticking down in the first, Peja gets a nice steal off help D on Darko, and feeds Chris Paul streaking ahead. CP has the brains to drag it out and hold for the last shot of the quarter. He calls Chandler over to set the pick and drains a 21-footer over a late-switching Milicic.
Byron just says fuck it and throws all reserves out to start the second. We've got our trigger-happy backcourt of Pargo and Bobby Jackson, along with Ely, Hilton Armstrong and Julian Wright. The rookie might be the only one who knows to pass the ball. The Griz go with Pau Gaol, Hakim Warrick, Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and ladies favorite Casey Jacobsen.
Wright proceeds to have the best few minutes of his young career, making a tough driving layup, knocking down a 12-footer, and dropping a fastbreak jam off some nice defense by Hilton. Pargo and Jackson are credited with the assists for Wright's buckets so I guess I'm an idiot.
10:00 and Pau drops a pair of freebies to make it 31-23 Hornets. Less than a minute later and Hilton gets faked out bad by Warrick and reaches back to give up a dumb foul. Basket and the foul. Byron cashes in his chips and puts a starter back out there, swapping Ely for West.
8:37 and it looks like we're in a zone out of a timeout. Hilton gets unlucky with a call and picks up his 3rd foul, sending Pau to the line. That's Tyson's que to get back in the game. Gasol drops both free throws and gets a layup a minute later, giving him 12 points already.
7:35 before the half and Bobby Jackson catches Elyitis. First he passes up an open three, only to jack up a tougher version of the same shot when the defense closes on him. Next offense and he drives and kicks to nobody. Turnover. Byron responds by subbing Pargo for Chris Paul. It makes sense if you don't think about it.
6:56 – CP only had six points until he drops an open triple, in what will become a recurring theme tonight.
5:49 and Tyson goes to work underneath, battling between two Grizzlies for the offensive board, the tough put-back and the foul. It will be 39-33 Hornets after he makes the free throw, but Memphis needs to talk and calls time.
Que the Honeybees, and I've never been so turned on by women so far away. The dilemma with watching the Honeybees at the Arena is do you look at the close-ups on the big screen, or do you just take the whole spectacle in with your own eyes? It's a good problem to have.
5:25 and Chris gets caught in a mismatch with Gasol, but comes up with a steal anyway. A couple of quick passes later and Peja is ahead of the pack for a dunk on the other end. That gives him 9 points, and he'll score no more tonight. He won't play after halftime due to a groin strain. Methinks the basketball gods don't approve of Peja dunking.
The rest of the quarter, we see CP playing off the ball a bit; Bobby Jackson and Julian Wright take turns bringing it up the floor. Both teams are scoring pretty easy, with the Grizzlies still getting most of their buckets inside. Rudy Gay starts to heat up and gets six quick points, including this jam where he left Julian Wright in the dust. David West closes out the half with a triple form the wing, and we've got an 8-point cushion at the half, 55-47.
- Byron Scott seems to be experimenting much more with the rotation, but I guess he's forced to with the injury to Peterson, and now Stojakovic. It might be a good thing though, so long as those guys are healthy soon. For now, Wright is getting minutes and playing pretty well, and we didn't lose much at all playing mostly with reserves.
- Halftime show is every man's fantasy. I'd trade three Honeybees for that chick.
- It's a little disturbing how easy the Grizzlies have been scoring. 30 of their 47 points have come in the paint, which doesn't sound good to me. Part of the problem is that they've been running picks and we've got caught in mismatches down low. I believe the Hornets usual technique for defending the pick and roll is to flash (or "hedge") and recover, but for whatever reason they haven't done that successfully against Memphis. (FYI: There are four ways to defend the pick and roll.)
- The Hornets seem to be communicating much better than the did against Detroit on Wednesday. It seemed like it was every man for himself against the Pistons, and the players seemed a little edgy and frustrated with each other. Tonight, they actually look like they're teammates. Out of a timeout in the second quarter, West, Peja and Wright even gathered in their own huddle for a minute to talk shop. Actually, for all I know they could have been talking about living room wallpaper, but whatever.
- The attendance is pretty bad tonight. It's announced as 10,386 (about the same as the Pistons game), but it's emptier than Wednesday. I would have guess 7,000 to 8,000. Dude next to me says there's some HS football thing on in the dome and that's probably killing it.
- Once again though, I'm impressed with the atmosphere. The Hornets really do a great job with the game break entertainment. From the flex cam and the dance offs, to the court games, and even Hugo, Rob Nice and that Britney chick, they keep the place buzzing. And the basketball is pretty good too.
- Chris Paul has seemed a little off so far. He turned it over twice late in the second quarter, and he's been lacking that aggression, not attacking the hoop.
- Grizz coach Marc Iavaroni looks funny.
The Hornets come out with the same five that finished: West, Chandler, CP, Pargo and the Rookie. The Grizzlies look to push up the pace right away, with Mike Miller leading the charge to the basket. Meanwhile, Chris Paul seems to know what's up and looks to slow things down. He drops another three about a minute in, his third in as many tries tonight.
But the Grizzlies just keep on scoring. Rudy Gay finishes a lob, Lowry makes a lay-up and they're not missing free throws. It's down to a one possession game (62-60 Hornets) when CP misses his first three of the night with 8:15 left in the quarter. A Mike Miller turnover later, and there's Julian Wright making the most of his minutes. He hustles for a rebound and delivers a nice dish to West underneath, who earns a trip to the line.
7:14 – Jannero gets tunnel vision, but he's hitting so we're cool. First he picks a Darko pass (can that guy hold on to a ball?) and finishes his own fastbreak. Next offense and Pargo hits a pull-up. 67-62 Hornets.
6:47 – West and Chandler just picked up fouls, putting us in the penalty real early. The Grizzlies are making us pay, too, going 14-of-18 on free throws so far. The Hornets are 8-of-11.
5:37 – Mike Miller's triple after an Hakim Warrick layup gives the Grizzlies what I believe to be their first lead of the night, 68-67. How about a timeout there, Byron? Cool, thanks man. Same old story with the Grizzlies pulling apart our defense, getting guys out of position and making us pay. It doesn't help that they're starting to get offensive rebounds now, too.
3:55 – Mike Miller just won't let up. He just followed another three with a short pull-up, and the Grizz are up two, 71-69. We're scoring easy, too, but a little defense would do wonders.
3:35 – Rasual Butler checks in for the first time tonight, replacing the Rook. I'm not so sure our defense just got better.
3:04 – Bobby Jackson does well to come up with a steal, but decides not to take the wide open layup on the break, instead dishing to an unsuspecting Chris Paul at the last second. CP uses his superpowers to squeeze up a shot, and Tyson Chandler does the rest, slamming home the rebound. 76-73 Hornets.
1:01 and still no stops. Rudy Gay now has 18 points despite going scoreless in the first quarter, but Chris is keeping us in this one. he just knocked down his fourth three of the night and followed with a pair of free throws for his 26th and 27th points of the night. His success from long range seems to have opened up the lane for him, as the Grizz guards have no choice but to play him closer. This is a very good thing.
0:47 – Tyson and CP trap Lowry and force a turnover. At the other end, Rasual can't feed the post so decides to take his first shot of the night instead. Julian Wright can't hit that. 85-79 Hornets.
A Lowry free throw makes it a 5-point game at the end of the third. Here's me thinking how we've already scored more points tonight that we did all game Wednesday against Detroit.
We start out with Byron's latest brainwave: CP,B-Jax, Hilton, Ely and Rasual. Memphis come to play with Lowry, Darko, Navarro, Gay and Warrick.
9:26 – Chris Paul just dropped his fifth triple of the night, a new career-high. What people assume to be the weakest part of his game is proving to be his strength tonight. 90-82 Hornets.
8:55 and we just got whistled for something that didn't happen. That's two iffy calls against us in this quarter. The crowd doesn't like it and the boos rain down, but everybody's happy again when an old guy wins the jumbotron dance-off during the ensuing timeout.
8:00 – Ely delivers a funky up-fake, then takes it home for the basket and the foul. It might be the least graceful thing I've ever seen. He misses the free throw but we're up 92-86.
6:15 – Bobby Jackson launches his fourth shot in just over a minute, but they've all been good looks and he connected on two. We look to be cruising now, actually getting some stops and leading 97-88.
5:13 – Too Gay. Rudy drops six quick points to put Memphis right back in it. He pulled up right over Pargo for a three as if he was alone in the gym.
4:14 and Chris tries to make something happen when he finds himself guarded by Gay on the wing. It's not happening though, and he kicks to Julian Wright, who has to force a three and only gets glass. Shot clock violation. 99-94 Hornets. After West takes it hard to the basket and earns two free throws, Byron pulls the Rookie, throwing Rasual back out there.
1:58 – Hornets up 105-102 and David West messes up. He gets trapped on the wing and elbows a nameless Grizzly to the floor. Offensive foul. Seemed to me he could easily have passed out of that double team to Butler up top. Of course, West can't believe he was called for the foul.
The Grizzlies take a timeout right there and the Arena gets hyped. Welcome to the Jungle is blaring and everyone's ready for a frantic finish.
1:33 – After a pair of free throws by Lowry, West picks up another offensive foul. I didn't catch what happened there, but this ain't good. Lowry makes it worse by making a layup on the other end, a shot Chandler might have challenged if he hadn't been whistled for minimal contact last trip. We're down one, 105-106.
0:39 – Chris is grabbing this one by the balls, and he takes it hard to the basket. Darko gets a piece but it's off the Grizzlies out of bounds. Somehow, CP thinks the refs call it the other way and starts to go off at the official on the baseline. Tyson is too late to prevent the technical. That was unfortunate, you could say.
Mike Miller makes the technical free throw, and we inbound. Lowry fouls CP on the floor but it sends us to the line. Chris hits both, tying the ballgame at 107 and giving him a new career-high of 36 points. I'm sure he couldn't give a shit about personal accomplishments right now, though.
Memphis decide to go to their hot hand, but Rudy misses a runner with 17 ticks left. West boards it and outlets to Chris, who lets the clock run down before taking it right to the rack. His shot comes off, and the Grizz get another chance.
0:03 – Please don't fucking score.
The Grizzlies try a lob to Gay for the win, but CP comes up with it and fires up a prayer from beyond half court. He's about a foot away from amazing. Everyone in the Arena was standing for that and it would have been apeshit if it had gone.
The Hornets had won their past 11 OT games and Memphis were 0-5 this season in games decided by 3 points or less, so we should have known what was coming.
Chris went right to work in the extra session, dropping a floater despite the foul by Lowry. He'd hit the free throw and add four more points and an assist before the night was out. The assist was a lob to Chandler that was sent home in reverse and put us up 112-107. It looked a littles something like this…
Anyway, it was still much closer than it had to be after that. 0:23 and Rudy Gay hits a pesky three to tie it at 116. Chris takes the inbound and awaits redemption for that miss at the end of regulation. This time he does it better, slicing into the middle with about 5 seconds left and sneaking past everyone in Grizzly blue for the right-hand lay-in.
It felt pretty damn good being in the Arena for that, with the crowd roaring their approval. Goosebumps. I can only imagine what it will be like when the place is packed and there's similar to cheer about. Unreal.
So, a Pau Gasol fumble later and we're done for the night. 118-116 Hornets.
That was much closer than it had to be, but with Mo-Pete and Peja hurting, I guess we did pretty well. Chris warmed up to have one insane game. His numbers: 43 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. He hit 15-of-27 from the field, including 5-of-7 from three. Legend.
Tyson (13 points, 19 boards) and West (27 points, 9 boards) came away with nice numbers, too, and it was pretty good to see Wright getting so many minutes (21). I think he proved to Byron that he warrants more PT.
Anyways, after the game it was off to the French Quarter, for random stories from random people, and enough whiskey to make my head hurt real bad right about now. Let's do it all over again tomorrow!