The Hornets beat the Bulls

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Published: March 18, 2008

Chris Paul, man.

The kid is just incredible. There was I hoping he wouldn't play tonight for fear he'd worsen that ankle, then he comes out and drops 37 points (15-of-21 FGs), 13 assists and 3 steals on the Chicago Bulls. Stuff of legend.

Chris scored 16 points in the fourth quarter alone, leading the charge as the Hornets outscored the visitors 33-13 in the period, turning a 9-point deficit into an 11-point victory. He did it all. There he was knocking down big three-pointers, setting up teammates for easy buckets, and just plain terrorizing the Chicago guards on defense.

There he was with just more than four minutes left, Hornets down by three, and he lunges into the corner to intercept a pass by Larry Hughes. Ball where it belongs, Chris turns and darts down court like a bullet — any faster and he'd be traveling back in time — unleashing some dribble moves to lose the defense but not the speed. Then he flips home an acrobatic layup between the leftovers. The Bulls call timeout as CP throws a killer-without-a-conscience stare in the direction of their bench. He holds it just long enough, then walks to the other end of the court as the MVP chants rain down.

You knew right then that the Hornets were winning this game.

Chris Paul, not to be denied by the Bulls

Notes from up close…

  • Final score was 108-87. Linkage: recap | box score | standings
  • I had me some floor seats for this game, right behind the Bulls bench. Mucho thanks to my ticket rep Blake for arranging that. I must say though, I find it easier to watch the game from my usual seat in the upper bowl. Where I was tonight, you had to strain to see the action at the far end of the court, trying to look past the towel boys and the ticket checker people and Jim frickin' Boylan. It's tough even to see what type of defense is being played, and you can't so much keep an eye on what's happening off the ball.

    Of course, there are also advantages to sitting so close. The intensity of the final few minutes seemed much more, well, intense. You also get to see things like Drew Gooden winking at the Bulls bench after he gets bailed out with a foul call in the second quarter, or Ben Gordon talking trash to Jannero Pargo a split second before JP nails a jumper in his grill.

  • What I found most fascinating about being so close was the tenacity of Chris Paul. He's out there battling every single play. He'd bump Joakim Noah when the big man would land with a rebound, or use enough of his elbow to slow Kirk Hinrich when the Bulls PG was about to take off on a fast break. All these little extra jabs and nudges that frustrate the hell out of the opposing team. You should have seen the Bulls' bench getting worked up whenever Chris got away with some extra contact, which was almost every time.

    And just in case somebody picks up on this the wrong way, let me be clear that Chris isn't a dirty player. He's not trying to hurt anybody out there. He's just doing whatever he can to piss off the opposition and give his team the edge. It worked beautifully tonight.

  • Julian Wright had another great game off the bench: 19 minutes, 14 points (6-of-8 FGs), 4 rebounds, and the now familiar solid defense. What amazes me most about JuJu is that he's this big bundle of seemingly raw explosiveness, yet he doesn't bite on fakes on defense or get himself in trouble by taking too much out of the ball on offense. It's almost like he has the body of a Tyrus Thomas and the brain of a PJ Brown.
  • Okay, enough with the positivity for a minute. In reality, the Hornets were dogging it for three and a half quarters tonight. The defense was a mess, allowing the Bulls to get inside to finish or earn a trip to the line. The free-throw attempts of the two teams were very lopsided there for a while, because we seemed to be a step too late every time.
  • Ryan Bowen got the start instead of Melvin Ely tonight, and he didn't give us much out there, getting burned repeatedly by Drew Gooden's beard. Bowen has actually seemed a little off for the past few games. Perhaps it's a result of those heavy minutes he played when David West went down with that first ankle injury.
  • Also getting burned out there were Peja Stojakovic and Jannero Pargo. I'm not sure why the Bulls didn't feed Luol Deng against Peja more, because that was working for them.

    Ben Gordon dropped 31 points, a lot of which seemed to be on Pargo. Down the stretch, Byron Scott had JP switch on to Larry Hughes while Paul took the Gordon assignment. That move paid dividends, as Gordon was pretty much a non-factor with Paul hounding him.

  • Bonzi Wells had himself a game. 19 points (6-of-13 FGs) and 4 boards in 27 minutes. Interesting too that Bonzi is averaging slightly more minutes than Mo-Pete over the past four games. I doubt we'll see Peterson lose his starting spot anytime soon, but I expect Bonzi's reserve minutes to increase.
  • The official attendance was 14,377, or about 2,000 more than I had guessed. The average is now up to 14,093.
  • Peja didn't shoot great (6-of-19 FGs) but finished with 21 points. He also added 10 boards. So far in March, he's averaging 6.7 rebounds per game.

I'm real glad we came through in the end to get this game, because Wednesday sees the Rockets back in town. They'll try to extend their 22-game winning streak tomorrow against the visiting Celtics, so at least we catch them on a back-to-back.

Anyways, as of right now, we're back up to second in the Western Conference standings, tied with the Lakers and just a game behind Houston. Then you have the Denver Nuggets, just five games behind us and staying home if the Playoffs started today.

Madness.

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