The Hornets beat the Jazz

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Published: March 1, 2008

One of the finest games I've seen at the Arena last night. The Hornets came out and played their best quarter of the season in the first, then watched the Jazz chip away at the lead all the way into the final stanza. Four point game, 6:33 left, and then we get massive buckets from Peja Stojakovic and Jannero Pargo to put us back in control. Electric stuff.

Chris Paul, doing the unblockable

Game notes…

  • Final score was 110-98. Linkage: recap | box | standings
  • Just a legendary battle between Chris Paul and Deron Williams in this one. 24 points, 16 assists, 5 steals, 4 boards and just 1 turnover for CP. 22 points, 10 assists and a better shooting night for Williams. We are watching two masterful point guards at work.
  • Chris did a lot of his damage in the first quarter, when we dropped a 23-0 run on the Jazz and entered the second with a 38-15 lead. Incredible. I've never seen the Hornets play so good on both ends of the floor for twelve minutes. The defense was a well-oiled machine, David West had not even a hint of hesitation on his jumpers and we were running plays for Peja and getting him open looks. Everyone was working together beautifully, the fist being stronger than the five fingers. It didn't hurt either that Utah were turning the ball over every seven seconds and they couldn't hit a jump shot.
  • You knew a Jerry Sloan team wasn't gonna quit after that first quarter. Not a chance. A few days ago I read that Carlos Boozer article in the latest SLAM magazine, in which he talked about what he learned from the Spurs in last year's Playoffs:

    "I'll tell you what I learned. They have the ultimate trust. And ultimate belief in what they're gonna do. No matter how many runs we went on, no matter how many times Deron had 30 or I had 30 or whatever, they did the exact same thing every time. For me, that's where we have to get to. We have to ultimately believe, no matter if a team goes on a 10-0 run or whatever, that our game plan is gonna work."

    You could see that in the Jazz last night. They got knocked down hard in the first quarter, but they got right back up and chipped away at us until they were right back in it. Luckily, our Hornets are some resilient mofos, too, and we were able to meet the Jazz at the gates and beat them back down.

  • The third quarter of this game was two very good teams trading blow after blow after blow. The Jazz would execute a play and end up with Ronnie Brewer free underneath for a slam, then we'd come back down, set a couple of low picks for Peja and watch him curl off perfectly to get another bucket. Paul and Chandler would hook up for some crazy shit, then Okur would shake free for another jumper. Boozer would punish us inside, then West would come right back at him. There was plenty of good defense being played, but both teams were in the zone offensively. Basketball at its finest. Amazing to watch.
  • As mentioned, Peja and Pargo came up big down the stretch. Peja hit a couple of colossal threes, sending Andrei Kirilenko into orbit with a fake on the last one. The Russian still hasn't landed. Pargo once again proved that he is indeed a fearless, cold-blooded killer, dropping 10 points in the final six minutes. Nightmares are scared of Jannero Pargo.
  • Kyle Korver? Anybody?
  • Obviously Pargo was great. The rest of our bench wasn't bad either, although the reserve minutes were scarce. Ryan Bowen did his usual omnipresent thing. He chased down Ronnie Price on a fast-break late in the first quarter, tipping the ball to Rasual Butler, then racing back down the sideline and high-fiving a fan along the way. Dude's a multi-tasker.

    Mike James and Rasual Butler only got six minutes of burn apiece but they didn't seem  to hurt us one bit in the second quarter.

    Hilton Armstrong played fantastic in the first half. He looked like an actual threat out there, catching the ball, squaring up, elbows flared, making the defense pay attention to him. Then came the fourth quarter, and Byron Scott couldn't get him out of the game fast enough. Silly fouls, weak moves, back to the whole deer-in-headlights thing. I'm not sure what switch flipped in him. Maybe he had a more intimidating defender guarding him in the fourth, I can't recall.

  • Meanwhile, Bonzi Wells sat out for the second straight game with that Achilles thing. I couldn't see him down there on the bench, and I can only hope he wasn't dumb enough to forget the glad rags again.
  • In the house: Jadakiss, DJ Clue, and some dude from The Wire that the lady next to me was very very excited about. I've never seen The Wire.
  • Oh, also at the Arena last night were about 17,445 enthusiastic fans. Three sellouts in four games, baby. We've now played 23 home games since December 1st, and we need to average 15,000 fans per game between then and the end of next season. After last night, the average is up to 13,743. We'll get it done.
  • I figure last night may have been the best game David West has played since he hung 32 points on the Spurs in late January. He finished with 25 and 13 boards against the Jazz. Absent were the offensive fouls, sloppy turnovers and frustrating hesitation that we usually see from him each night, replaced by crisp passes out of the double teams, and clean, decisive offensive moves. We needed a game like that from West, and he delivered.
  • My Utah Jazz wrap it up from the other side. Their thoughts on Kirilenko last night:

    So the trade deadline passes and suddenly Andrei is back to his 2007 form. Missing jumpshots, dribbling off his legs, and getting bad haircuts. How many times did Mo Peterson block his entry passes tonight? 5. I counted. "Andrei meet Ballfake, Ballfake…Andrei".

  • Tyson played pretty tame last night, lacking the usual ferocity. The bright side of that is he stayed out of foul trouble for the first time in five games, but you could see his hesitation in challenging shots and going after the tough rebounds. The refs have taken away some of his edge.

    All that said, I though he played a pretty solid game, doing a lot of the little stuff that won't show in the boxscore. He was getting to the right spots on defense, particularly in the first quarter, and setting the usual bone-crushing picks all game. Boozer's quiet night can be largely credited to Chandler, too.

  • Tyson finished with 7 boards, and as a team we got killed on the glass, 45-34. We made up for that though by getting to the free throw line and actually making our free throws (27 makes on 31 takes), something which seemed an impossible task against Washington on Monday.
  • Halftime show: Xavier Prep Marching band. They didn't march, but they sounded pretty damn good.
  • Play of the game: Seven minutes deep in the third, and Chris Paul crosses Deron Williams bad at the elbow, sending D-Will almost to the baseline before he knew what happened. Back at about the free throw line, Chris has drawn Boozer out from under the basket, setting the stage for an oop to Chandler. Magic.

Man, it would be one helluva spectacle to see the Hornets and Jazz square off in the Playoffs. They are a dangerous team that matches up well against us, but I'd like our chances if we had home court. Win or lose though, it would be a feast for the eyes.

Moving on, and the Hornets are off on a mini-road trip next, with the first stop in Washington tomorrow, and then on to New York on Monday. Let's get on a nice win streak again and eat some souls.

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