« Gameday Open Thread: Hornets @ Pacers
Paul Already Making History – and a Game Preview »
The Hornets beat the Pacers
Definitely not the best of performances from the Hornets tonight, but in the end they came away with a W over the Pacers. Actually, not only did we start off the six-game road trip with a win, but David West once again teabagged the opinion of Rafer Alston, while Chris Andersen finally got to spread his wings.
Could have been worse.
OK, on to the bullets, where there's bound to be found a little more negativity…
- Final score was 114-106 ( recap | box score | standings ). The Hornets played about as much defense as a bunch of rocks in the first half, then picked it up and stretched out to a 14-point lead in the third quarter. But the Pacers fought back behind their hot shooting and our clumsy bench play. 4:30 left in the game and the Hornets' lead was just a deuce. Thankfully, David West and Chris Paul were able to take us home.
- For West, it was a second straight game of dominance. He hung 35 points and 16 rebounds on the Pacers after dropping 37 on the Celtics on Saturday. Plain and simple: without West tonight, the Hornets would have been screwed. He scored consistently all game, and came up massive with seven rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, including two crucial offensive boards in the final 75 seconds.
- We'll no doubt see a few stories on Chris Andersen tomorrow. The Birdman made his return to the NBA hardwood when Byron Scott called his number late in the third quarter. It took him all of six seconds to reject Shawne Williams.
In all, Andersen played six minutes, registering that block, a turnover and two fouls. He didn't attempt a shot. His energy was impressive though. He may have altered another three shots on defense, and that turnover he had was a result of him lunging out of bounds to save a loose ball. Not bad, Birdman. Not bad.
- Chris Paul once again put up phenomenal numbers — 31 points, 14 assists, 3 steals, 3 rebounds, 1 turnover — but I didn't think it was one of his better games. He appeared to be hassled more than usual by traps off the pick and roll, and seemed to spend most of the night outside the three-point line.
Wait, what am I saying? 31 points and 14 assists, and here I am complaining. I must be some kind of asshole. Amazing how high my standards are for him these days. For instance, dude had "just" 19 points and 7 assists against the Celtics on Saturday, but then Tony Parker doesn't even average 19 and 7.
- Good: The Hornets shot 39 free-throws tonight, making 30.
- Bad: The defense was miserable except for that stretch in the third where we ran up the double-digit lead. Our guys came out after halftime really focused and intense on D, holding the Pacers without a field goal for the first four minutes. Would have been nice if we could have sustained that.
- Morris Peterson got fouled hard on the way to the hoop by Jeff Foster midway through the second quarter. Mo had a few words for Jazzy Jeff before he realizing his left arm hurt like hell. He airballed the first free-throw, shot and missed the second with his right hand (Mo's a lefty), then came out of the game and went to the locker room. He didn't return, and the official word is that he has a bruised right shoulder.
No clue if Peterson will miss any time with that injury. Some folks are saying we should be starting Bonzi ahead of him anyway, but I disagree. Wells is great coming off the bench because he can give the second unit a scoring punch with his ability to post up. Looks like Byron might feel the same way, too, as evidenced by Julian Wright starting the second half.
- Speaking of JuJu, it wasn't one of his better games tonight. It might have been the first time in a month that I've seen him make so-called "rookie mistakes". He made a suicide pass on a fast break early in the second quarter, then had David West fuming at him with some dumb plays late in the fourth.
Of course, there were numerous bright spots from the rookie, too. I noticed tonight how good he is to find and box out opposing bigs for rebounds. It takes him a split second to decide which guy is the biggest threat on the boards and then he'll go and put a body on him. Also, as West noted in the post-game interview, Byron is showing a lot of faith in Wright by having him out there in crunch time.
- JuJu and the rest of the bench didn't give us much offense tonight though, especially compared to the Pacers' reserves. They outscored our guys 41-17, with Shawne Williams (who?) and David "I'm going to (expletive) kill him" Harrison doing the most damage, scoring 17 and 12 apiece.
- Jannero Pargo played just eight minutes, and they were mostly cringe-worthy. He was pushing the tempo when we needed to slow it, throwing poor passes and taking ill-advised shots. It was one of those nights where you wonder what Mike James might be able to do out there.
- Peja Stojakovic was somehow hot and cold in the same game. He rained some impossible jumpers over outstretched Pacer hands, but also tossed up some ugly airballs. When the dust settled he had 16 points on 6-of-13 shooting.
- By the way, I'm spelling OK like this now, as opposed to okay. OK?
- With Birdman on the active roster tonight, Hilton Armstrong sat alongside Rasual Butler in some fancy pants. I could be wrong, but methinks that could be Armstrong's first trip to the inactive list this season. Head up, kid.
- Melvin Ely played eight minutes tonight. You may have noticed him passing it out of the post, not once, but twice! He even registered one assist in the box score, one shy of his season-high. Melvin can beat you in so many ways.
- The officiating wasn't bad tonight overall. The game was a little physical but nothing too serious. There was one call however that was just ridiculous. Late in the third quarter, Chris Paul picked off a pass and got blocked at the other end by Marquis Daniels. The ball appeared to hit Daniels' chest, leg and perhaps even his wonderful hair before going out of bounds, yet somehow Eddie Rush gave it to the Pacers. Great job there, Eddie.
- Play of the game? Chris Paul unleashed a sick spin move on Flip Murray late in the second quarter, getting him into the lane to finish the fast break. That was nice, but I'll have to go with a much less flashy play for my pick. That would be David West's last offensive rebound, which he reeled in relentlessly despite the best efforts of two Pacers. West then kicked it out to Paul, who tore through the lane for a layup. 8-point game, 0:28 left. Game over.
- West's averages the past three games since returning from injury: 31.7 points and 10.3 rebounds, shooting 35-of-67 (.522) from the field and 25-of-27 (.926) from the free-throw line.
Next up we've got the Cavaliers in Cleveland tomorrow. They sport a not-all-that-fantastic 40-31 record and will be without Ben Wallace, but they do have that LeBron James kid, who has led them to nine straight wins at home.
More on the Cavs ahead of the game tomorrow. For now, let's just take a moment to enjoy being all alone atop the Western Conference, and just two wins shy of a half-century on the season.
Them roses smell mighty good.