The Hornets beat the Magic

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Published: April 2, 2008

Crazy win in Orlando tonight. You might even say we stole this one.

It came down to the Hornets trailing 92-95 with a minute and five remaining. Mo Evans gets called for a foul on Mo Peterson as the latter breaks into the backcourt for the inbound. Foul away from the ball; that's one shot and possession. The replay shows Peterson was the one who created the contact, but it's too late now as Peja cans the free-throw, then knocks down a triple a dozen seconds later. Hornets lead it by one.

Fast-forward past a missed three by Evans, and Peja tries a 16-footer at the other end. It's off, and after some battling the ball ends up out of bounds. Hornets will keep it, despite the valid protests by Orlando. Twelve seconds remain. An inbound, a foul and a couple of Peja free-throws later, and this one's almost in the books. Just to prolong the anxiety there's a dunk by Hedo Turkoglu, two bricked free-throws by Chris Paul, and a too-short pull-up by Keyon Dooling at the buzzer.

Hornets win it by the narrowest of margins, and our guys look more relieved than joyous as they exit stage right.

Morris Peterson, loving the victory

Notes…

  • Final score was 98-97 ( recap | box score | standings ). The Hornets were hampered by foul trouble early and fell behind by as many as 14 points early in the third. We managed to battle back behind some insane offensive rebounding and then it was neck and neck all through the fourth.
  • Great game by Mo Pete, who not only managed to fool the refs into calling that foul on Evans, but also dropped 19 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 5-of-6 makes from downtown. The last time Peterson had such a big offensive game was way back in early January, when he scored 22 in Phoenix.

    Mo also did a nice job chasing down the boards — he finished with 6 — hustling after loose balls, and playing solid help D.

  • Stojakovic struggled mightily against Hedo all night, at both ends of the floor. Peja shot just 2-of-11 for 10 points, while allowing his counterpart to go off for 26 on 10-of-19 shooting. However, there was redemption for our guy late, as he knocked down that big triple and didn't allow Hedo to get loose for any late looks. Well, except for that dunk, but whatever.
  • Chris Paul had a rough one, but somehow managed to come away with magic numbers of 19 points and 12 assists. He got in foul trouble early and got upset with the officials, although methinks he didn't have much of a case. He couldn't get his shot dropping consistently (6-19 FGs, 0-4 3Ps), and turned the ball over an uncharacteristic four times.

    And then came those late misses at the free-throw line, which could have cost the Hornets the game. I seem to remember CP bricking a pair like that down the stretch earlier this season, though I can't recall which game it was exactly.

    Still, when it's all said and done, Chris Paul on a bad night like tonight still trumps half the point guards in the game.

  • The Magic did a great job defending David West. From the start, Rashard Lewis was right up on West when he faced up out high, then fronting him in the post. Orlando can get away with that fronting because they have great help-side D from Dwight Howard. Of course, playing West so aggressively got Lewis into foul trouble, and that really hurt the Magic because we had no answer for him on defense. He was just on fire from deep in the first half, and finished with 24 points (9-12 FGs, 6-8 3Ps) in just 29 minutes.
  • West finished with 18 points (6-16 FGs) and 11 boards. He got burned a number of times trying to guard perimeter guys, and for much of the game he seemed really reluctant to go all the way out and put a hand in the face of a Rashard Lewis or a Keith Bogans.
  • Tyson Chandler played a great first half tonight. He was challenging all kinds of shots without leaving Howard alone for easy rebounds. He got busy on the boards himself early, grabbing six in the first half. He was bothered a bit by foul trouble later, and that seemed to limit his aggressiveness. He did manage to set countless concrete picks on Keyon Dooling in the fourth quarter, though, which either freed up CP to work some magic of his own, or allowed Tyson to roll off and catch a lob at the rim.

    Tyson finished with 12 points and 7 rebounds (6 offensive), and even knocked down a pair of clutch free-throws in the fourth quarter.

  • With Tyson playing just 33 minutes due to that foul trouble, and Melvin Ely inactive due to some kind of illness, Byron Scott decided to roll the dice and throw Hilton Armstrong out there tonight. And that turned out pretty damn good.

    Hilton had himself a damn fine showing out there, rebounding his ass off and frustrating the hell out of Dwight Howard, who initially mistook Armstrong for an April Fool's joke. Hilton even pulled up and banked home a 14-footer out there at one point, because that's just how he rolls, bitches.

  • Pargo, Wells and Wright were the only other guys off the Hornets bench tonight, and they all contributed pretty good. Bonzi seemed to quieten down Lewis for a stretch, while Pargo came in and gave us some great minutes when CP was benched with foul trouble in the first half. As for JuJu, he only played five minutes in the second quarter, but on one play managed to cover fourteen miles in half a second to reject a Keith Bogans triple, then followed it up later with a sweet spin move to get two in the lane.
  • This was a match-up of two well-coached teams, as both Scott and Stan Van Gundy are in the running for Coach of the Year honors. My buddy Mikey called me during the game to point out how well Van Gundy was using his timeouts to halt any runs we had. Commenter mW also noted this in the game thread, and contrasted it to the approach of coaches like Byron and Phil Jackson, who will often sit back and let their team play through the lulls. I'm not sure there's a right way and a wrong way here. Sometimes calling a timeout helps your team regroup and refocus; other times the players benefit more by playing through it and growing as a team.
  • I must question Byron's decision to leave Mo Pete on the bench for the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter. On normal nights, that makes sense, but when Mo has been lighting it up from downtown and Bonzi is out there bricking triples, surely you have to get the hot hand back in the game.
  • The Magic have some impressive pieces. I knew what to expect from Howard, but I didn't realize Lewis could D up like that, or that Hedo was so versatile. That dude has great handles for a guy listed as 6-10, and he has those big lunging steps that help him get by guys and finish in the lane. Very nice player.
  • Gil McGregor's best pun of the night: Upon noticing that the Hornets' mascot, Hugo, was in the building, Gil commented that "Hugo bees here!"

    You see, that's funny because Hugo is a hornet, a hornet is an insect, and bees are also insects. Gil had to substitute out the more appropriate word (is) to get the pun in there, but given the time constraints I think you'll agree that the joke still worked quite well, and may have even proved devastating to any good-humored individual within earshot.

    It's my hope that through constant analysis of Gil's puns, some day we will all be able to possess such wittiness ourselves. Only then will we be able to impress the ladies.

  • Great board work from the Hornets tonight. 51-30 was our advantage, including an incredible 21-2 edge on the offensive glass. It was true team effort, with guys like Pargo and Peja coming up with seven boards apiece. The Magic are no slouches on the glass either, averaging 42.1 rebounds a game, compared to our 41.9.
  • Play of the game: Well, maybe not a crowd pleaser, but I thought that steal and breakaway jam by Chris Paul midway through the second quarter was incredible. Pargo had just gotten blocked on a similar opportunity, but Chris turned on the afterburners and made sure nobody was going to catch him. That acceleration was amazing.

Next up we've got the final game of the road trip in Miami tomorrow. The Heat suck so bad right now that I'd consider the entire trip a failure if we drop that game. It's one we absolutely should not lose.

As of right now, we're still on top of the West (obviously), but the Spurs just got done beating the Warriors in Texas, so they're still breathing down our necks. The good news is that the Suns lost to the Nuggets, so that spreads out the West a little. Well, not really. It's still pretty crowded in here.

Leaving you with some freshness…

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