The Hornets beat the Sonics

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Published: December 11, 2007

I decided to head to the Hornets-Sonics game early yesterday to catch some of that pregame Buzzfest all the cool kids talk about. Instead of biking it this time, I hopped on the streetcar and got talking with a Hornets season ticket holder named Mikey, who turned out to be super cool. 

Down outside the Arena and it was a pretty good atmosphere, lots of games for the kids and cheap beer for the bigger people. Mikey gets me into the season ticket holder area where the beer is even cheaper (i.e. free) and we get full on chips and dip. It comes time to leave outside for the cozy confines of the Arena but a massive security dude won't let me in with a backpack, because I guess backpacks are really dangerous these days. I take a moment to remember all the good times I had with that backpack, then dump it in the trash and walk inside.

Durant and Carlesimo talk about curtains. Presumably. 

Pregame

Jannero Pargo shoots threes from the corner. He starts with two balls, tosses one straight up in the air, shoots the other, then catches and shoots the first. It's an interesting drill but he's not hitting many of them.

Meanwhile, Melvin Ely and Hilton Armstrong go one-on-one in the low post, Tyson Chandler practices his free throws, and Morris Peterson gets his back stretched out near mid-court. He's questionable tonight. Peja Stojakovic is sitting this one out due to that groin strain he suffered against the Grizzlies on Friday.

First Quarter

Byron starts out with the old reliable trio of Chandler, Chris Paul, and David West, together with Julian Wright and Rasual Butler. It's Butler's first start of the season, and the first of Wright's young career.

The Sonics start out with Earl Watson and Kevin Durant at the guards, Damien Wilkins and Chris Wilcox at the forward spots, and Kurt Thomas at the pivot.

7:35 left in the first and we're firing on all cylinders. Everyone but David West has scored and we lead 10-3. Seattle call a timeout to talk about their unforced turnovers and general suckage.

4:52 – CP just stole the ball from Damien Wilkins in the backcourt and took it in for the slam. 19-7 Hornets and we're looking damn fine. Everyone in home whites is now on the score sheet and the Sonics offensive game plan seems to be "get the ball to Wilcox." Not the most ingenious thing I've heard of.

1:10 – Seattle have resorted to a zone defense and it's working for them.

They hold us scoreless for the last 3:47 of the quarter and our 12-point lead has been cut in half by the end of the first. 23-17 Hornets.

Second Quarter

Coach Scott shakes it up, starting the quarter with Pargo, Wright, Ely, Armstrong and Bobby Jackson. Seattle start with the same five that finished the first: Luke Ridnour, Wally Szcerfsdfjsbgj, Jeff Green, Nick Collison and Durant.

10:19 and Ely's hook shot puts us back up by a dozen, 29-17. The Sonics are sticking to that zone, but our guys are handling it well. Hilton is moving through it like it's no big deal. On the other end, Seattle are throwing Wally and Durant into the corners and trying to feed Green down low, but it hasn't produced anything yet.

8:35 – Durant just knocked down a 16-footer followed by a triple on their next possession. That gives him seven points to match the Hornets lead.

Illegal D by Nick Collison allows for a timeout and our first look at the Honeybees tonight. How I'd love to converse and talk intellectually with them all.

Out of the timeout, West is back in for Ely and Pargo hits the technical free throw to keep him perfect from the charity stripe. He's now 16-of-16 on the season. 

7:35 – Seattle's offense and the rookies, Durant and Wright, match up on the wing. Their guy just blows past our guy, but Wright catches up to foul and prevent the easy basket. 34-26 Hornets after KD drops both freebies.

6:40 and Seattle is back to man defense, which West seems to appreciate. He just scored twice inside to restore that 12-point lead again. I begin to wonder if we'll ever lead these bums by more than a dozen.

5:28 – After a 20-second timeout which featured a 3-minute burger-eating contest, JuJu (that's Julian Wright, by the way), makes a sweet drive and dish to Hilton for the slam. After a Damien Wilkins miss at the other end, Wright leaks out and puts home an alley-oop from Pargo. We're up by more than 12 and Seattle needs to talk again. Byron switches CP and Tyson back in for Pargo and Hilton.

1:42 and Chris has been giving Earl Watson all kinds of problems out there. A couple minutes ago he crossed up the kid something awful and dropped a no-look bounce pass to David West up top. Next time down and he took Watson all the way for the basket and the foul. Next offense CP works the pick and roll with Tyson and an alley-oop is born. After Durant answers with an 18-footer, CP sneaks inside again for a tough lay-in. Just relentless. 52-38 Hornets and it looks like we're about to bust this one open before halftime.

Or maybe not. The Hornets go flat and Durant connect three times from the free throw line. We're up 41-52 at the half, and I'm not worried much by these Sonics.

Pargo. Jumping.


Halftime Thoughts

  • Julian Wright is looking confident, getting some scores, rebounding and hustling. He tried a spin move in the first quarter, and while he wasn't able to hit the jumper off of it, it's nice to see him playing loose and not worrying so much about messing up.
  • The Honeybees split into two groups and sit on high stools behind each basket during play, facing the court. Right in front of each group (and I mean right in front of them – like toe-to-toe almost) sits a security guard facing the crowd. I'm sure his job is to make sure nothing crazy happens in the stands, but how he's supposed to look beyond the hotness right before his eyes is inconceivable.
  • Durant looks good. Methinks he can beat his man any time he wants to. I haven't been as impressed with Jeff Green, who was the fifth pick in the last draft. I didn't realize he was a back-to-the-basket guy, but regardless he isn't having much of an impact on this game.
  • It's way cold where I'm sitting tonight.
  • Still no sign of Mo-Pete so I guess he's sitting this whole game out. It's all good though, because the Sonics ain't much and the the reserves are getting plenty of minutes and holding their own.
  • Halftime show is some dude in a big hamster wheel who also showed up in OKC last season. It starts off pretty weak but he's doing some crazy stuff by the end of the routine. Chad Shinn, in his usual courtside seat, appears mildly amused.
  • That Britney chick, the game-break emcee, sets up right in front of me for some promo thing. She's got four people around her whose job it is just to smile, nod and point at stuff. They're damn good at it, too.

Third Quarter

Starters back in for both teams, and the Sonics start out by grabbing every rebound imaginable and they're off on an 8-0 run. Julian Wright is the most active Hornet on the floor, turning it over, stealing it back, getting blocked, and missing a short jumper before finally giving the home team their first basket of the half with a 19-footer four minutes in. 54-49 Hornets.

6:15 – Seattle are just killing us on the glass, racking up a 13-2 rebounding advantage since halftime. Seriously. They're making a living off of second chances, and Kurt Thomas just scored his eighth point of the quarter to make it a one-point game, 53-54.

5:17 – The Sonics take a timeout after jumpers by West and Paul put us back up by five, 58-53. We went more than half the quarter and scored only two points.

During the timeout, Hugo drags some dude from the crowd and they play a game: whatever Hugo does, this guy has to do. It leads to one of the officials getting his ass slapped twice, and then Hugo runs into the crowd to plant a sloppy one on a seriously hot blonde who looks suspiciously like a Honeybee in street clothes. The dude does his bit for mankind and follows suit.

4:53 – Collison has replaced Wilcox, but the rebounding onslaught by Seattle continues.

4:22 and CP unleashes perhaps the prettiest move of the night. He picks off a dish by Watson and goes right at him the other way. Down the lane, spins left to right and fades away for a funky finish. I feel like I should be paying more for this seat.

2:50 – Same story with the rebounding, and an easy lay-in by Kevin Durant finally ties this one up at 60 apiece. Tyson Chandler had 8 points and 3 rebounds by halftime, but only a block to speak of since.

2:32 – Same score as an offensive foul by West cancels out a baseline slam by JuJu. That's four on West and in comes Ely. I have no idea what song they play when he comes in the game.

1:12 – Great D by Bobby Jackson with help from CP to deny Wally in the post. The Sonics get slapped with a shot clock violation.

We close out the quarter with a pair of free throws by Chris, a blue-collar slam by Chandler and a free throw by Ely. Somewhere in between, Ridnour drops a three for Seattle.

Wright almost had himself a career highlight when he stole the Sonics' long inbound with three seconds left, and took some giant strides to make it almost all the way to the basket before the buzzer. He got off a finger roll but Gervinesque it wasn't.

It's 67-65 Hornets at the end of three. Yeah, we were out-scored 24-15 in the last 12 minutes. I'm afraid to count the rebounds.

Fourth Quarter

We start the home stretch with B-Jax and Pargo in the backcourt, Butler and Ely up front, and Hilton in the middle. Seattle's got Ridnour, Green, Wilcox, Wally and Wilkins.

Hilton starts the quarter with two plays he'd rather forget. He can't handle a nice pass underneath by Ely that should have become an open dunk. On the other end, he gets beat bad by Green on a drive to the basket, and has to foul to avoid an easy deuce. Green makes both the freebies though, and we're tied at 67.

9:28 – A reverse lay-in by the uber-athletic Ely saves us from five blank trips to the offensive end. 69-67 Hornets.

8:08 – Bobby Jackson rips down a rebound, breaks up court and delivers a lob that Hilton can't quite finish. Undeterred, Jackson keeps going and finishes the job himself, tipping home the rebound. Nice work. It's 73-71 Hornets and Seattle takes a timeout. West comes in for Ely and I see on the hustle board that we're down 32-46 in the rebounding battle.

7:00 – Hilton lets another easy catch slip through his fingers and it leads to a Wally dunk on the other end. Pargo gets the ball to West on the next trip and we're back up by two, 77-75.

I'm thinking there's no way this game should be this close right now.

4:22 – Durant slips back-door on Rasual for the easy flush, and Seattle have their first lead of the night, 78-77. It doesn't last long though, as Chris Paul fires in a deep three over Watson as the shot-clock drops to zero. The crowd liked that.

After Wally misses a jumper on the other end, CP goes behind the back, into the lane and drops a floater. He knows what time it is. 82-78 Hornets.

1:15 – CP does the dishing and West does the scoring, converting his second feed from Chris in as many offences. Durant is keeping the Sonics in this one though, squeezing home two free throws between those baskets by West. It's 86-82 Hornets as PJ Carlesimo calls time for Seattle.

0:28 – A couple of misses on both ends, and Seattle has the ball back. Ron Nice gets the place loud during the timeout, but Durant undoes his work by nailing a triple off the inbound. Sonics within one, and Wally sends Bobby Jackson to the line. He makes both and we're up 88-85.

0:16 – Durant takes JuJu right down the middle. Looks like contact but no call and West is fouled by Collison on the rebound.

0:07 – West split the free throws to put us up four, but Durant finds Watson in the corner for three. Shit. Byron calls a timeout and gets the rookie out of there. Pargo checks back in with his perfect free throw percentage, which isn't so prefect after he gets fouled by Wilkins and bricks both from the charity stripe.

Collison comes down with the rebound and the Sonics are only down a point with one more chance. That quickly evaporates when Collison's long pass up-court to Durant ends up in the second row.

A pair of CP free throws and a Wally miss later and this game is over. 91-88 Hornets.


Postgame Thoughts

Absolutely horrible second half. The rebounding was just woeful and that really hurt us. Seattle ended up with a 56-43 advantage on the boards, including 19 offensive rebounds.

But a win is a win. It also came without the help of Peja and Mo-Pete, and as Mikey SeasonTickets pointed out after the game, it's refreshing to get a win without having to launch a bunch of threes (we were 2-of-11 from beyond the arc).

Hats off to CP, who played his second badass game in a row. He finished with 29 points and 10 assists.Kudos also to Julian Wright, who made his first start and ended up getting more minutes (38) than any other Hornet. His numbers (6 points, 6 boards, 3 assists) weren't jaw-dropping, but he showed some flashes out there, and he didn't make any colossal mistakes.

Chris Paul does the whole superstar thing

Looking Ahead

And so ends our four-game homestand, which we finished with a 3-1 record. Not bad at all. We're now 14-7 on the season with three really tough games ahead. It's at Denver on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Dallas on Friday, and then home to play the Suns on Saturday. One win out of those three might be the best we can hope for.

Anyway, now that the Hornets are hitting the road, I guess I better go find myself a TV. 

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