The Hornets beat the Nets

Published: January 22, 2009

Nothing like a few injuries to shake things up and turn what should have been a couple of ho-hum games into two of the most interesting nights of Hornets basketball this season. Why exactly has Julian Wright been rotting on the bench all this time? When was the last time Peja grabbed 10 boards before scoring 10 points? Did Sean Marks really play 25 minutes and have a better +/- than anybody on either team? And who was that strange new dude sitting on the Hornets bench?

Let’s dive into the bullets and try figure out the insanity…

  • We’ll start with JuJu. With all the injuries, Byron really had no choice but to play the kid tonight. And after the performance Wright delivered, I don’t see how Coach can justify keeping him on the bench even when we get healthy again. JuJu’s line for the game: 25 minutes, 11 points, 5-7 FGs, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, 2 fouls. He brought great energy and he made plays. Twice in the game he caught misplaced lobs, turning one into a dish to Ely for an easy two, and the other into a spring-back bucket. He was active defensively, too, getting hands in faces and bothering guys like Vince Carter into sloppy plays. Now of course it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for JuJu. He made plenty of mistakes out there. Among them: he got beat bad on a backdoor cut by Jarvis Hayes, committed a dumb foul on Keyon Dooling and turned an open three-point look into a travel in the fourth quarter. Byron took him out of the game at just about the right time. But I’ll happily live with Wright making those mistakes if it means we get all the other good stuff along with it. And the only way he’ll grow out of those boneheaded plays and develop into the star I’m sure he can be is by getting more PT and learning as he goes. Hopefully Byron can see that now.
  • The ball movement looked good tonight. We did suffer through some horrible stagnant sequences, but for the most part we had the defense on their toes. No offense to David West, but I think the ball movement is better by default without him on the floor, because we can’t just dump it into him and watch him work. An active guy like JuJu helps, too, because he’ll keep moving and make some dives into the lane (sometimes even when he’s not supposed to). One thing I really liked was how Wright setup several times at that spot where the edge of the lane meets the baseline. Like the low low block. He got behind the defense in there and then was able to quickly step under the basket to challenege for boards or get a dish from a driving Chris Paul.

  • Chris Paul was macrophenomenal. He left it all out there tonight.  The third quarter was when he did the most damage. He had that fastbreak spinning layup around Vince Carter, a couple of those magical whipped passes out of traffic and into the hands of an open three-point shooter, that rebound he ripped away from Josh Boone, several dashes back on D to prevent an easy Nets bucket. He was just pouring his heart into every possession, offense and defense. He called a timeout at one point and promptly collapsed into a seat on the bench. And then a minute later he was right back out there going at it again. He got a nice rest to start the fourth and then dug deep to make sure we didn’t blow the lead. His three-point play among the trees with a minute left pretty much sealed the win, and then his emphatic fastbreak jam after stealing an inbound from VC was the icing on the cake. 29 points, 11-18 FGs, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals. I’d rather be without West, Chandler and Armstrong for two games than be without CP for one.
  • Kudos to the bench for getting Paul some decent breaks tonight. We were actually up 12 when CP checked back in in the fourth, and I was wondering if maybe Byron would let him finish it out on the bench. Daniels was pretty solid out there. It’s just a pity he can’t drive the ball at all.
  • Devin Harris: 6 points, 1-11 FGs. And he was benched again for most of the second half, not even getting a glance from Lawrence Frank when Keyon Dooling hurt his ankle. I’m guessing those ribs were still bothering Harris, because I didn’t see the Hornets doing anything special to stop him. That said, he didn’t appear to be in any pain out there. He looked disinterested more than anything.
  • Peja is stepping up big when we need him most. Who would have though he could give 20 points and 10 boards? I don’t think he missed an open look in this one, and I love it oh so much when he gets aggressive and starts looking to take his man off the dribble. He’s pretty good at that you know. I’m wondering if he could give us this type of production every night if only he had the opportunities.
  • I’m in my seat before the game and Mikey starts yelling at me from two sections over, pointing down to the floor at the players warming up. He’s spotted a stranger in the Hornets layup line. Turn out we’ve signed a dude named Anthony Tolliver to a 10-day. He’s 6-8, played with the Spurs earlier this season, most recently been balling in the D-League. He didn’t get to play tonight.
  • Some numbers: Hornets 9-22 3FGs, 42-37 rebounding advantage, 19-2 edge in fastbreak points.
  • Sean Marks and Melvin Ely both started. Both had their highs and lows. Marks missed the usual open jumpers and was much too slow defensively, but he also got a badass block on Short-haired Lopez and somehow finished with a +/- of +20. Ely got blocked on point-blank looks twice in 32 seconds down the stretch and shot just 3-12 for the game, but he did come up with 3 blocks of his own and played great D on Carter after a switch with a minute and change left. West and Chandler don’t have to worry about losing their starting jobs anytime soon, but I appreciate the effort Ely and Marks are giving. They’re not very good at this whole basketball thing, but at least they’re trying.
  • We saw some odd line-ups against the Nets; none of them went horribly wrong. Most interesting was the quintet of CP, Wright, Posey, Peja and Butler for a stretch in the first quarter. Good thing we were playing the Nets and their abundance of no big men. Byron was forced to let go a little tonight and roll the dice a few times. Methinks that’s good for him and the team. He should do it more often. No growth without change. Let’s get Ryan Bowen out there on Friday and see what happens.
  • Josh Boone badly missed four free throws in the first quarter, so I got curious. Turns out he’s 20-52 (.385) from the charity stripe this season. Wow.
  • Answer me this: do offensive fouls not count as team fouls? If they do, then someone messed up in the second quarter. The Nets had four team fouls before Lopez set an illegal pick at the 3:39 mark. And then they still had four team fouls afterwards. Nobody blinked. No free throws for the Hornets; just possession and the game kept going. Am I missing something there?
  • Those acrobatic Bello Brothers from Italy were back doing their halftime show. I’m pretty sure they wore different costumes when they performed last season, but these outfits were similar in that there was ass cheek on display once again. Seriously. The halftime show was pretty much four Italian ass cheeks.

All in all, a great few hours at the Hive tonight. The Hornets are making up for the injuries by playing with hustle and energy. Our three best bigs going down has been a blessing in disguise so far.

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