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The Hornets beat the Magic
Note: I heard about the Chandler trade being rescinded as I was writing this recap, and so threw together a quick post about that here. The following is all about the game against Orlando and the players we had on the floor.
A flawless performance by the Hornets tonight. They executed a solid game plan, rebounded the ball extremely well, closed out pretty good on Orlando’s shooters, and Chris Paul just so happened to be balling at an MVP level. Combine that with the Magic having a rough night shooting the ball, and we come away with our biggest margin of victory this season, 117-85.
- I could spend this whole recap just talking about the brilliance Chris Paul displayed tonight. As commenter Mark n’ Becky put it in the game day thread, “I swear, Chris Paul is a video game. With a cheat code on.” CP finished with 36 points (14-of-22 FGs), 10 assists, 6 rebounds and only one turnover in 31 minutes of action. He abused Orlando from all angles, especially off the pick and roll, and was a terror on the defensive end, too. One of my favorite plays in the game tonight was late in the third quarter when Chris was half the double team on Dwight Howard, helping deny the pass from the wing into the post. Then, reacting to a quick skip pass by Orlando, CP turned and made it all the way from the low block to the far corner to block a three-point attempt by Rashard Lewis. Yes, the 6-10 Rashard Lewis.
- As mentioned, the Hornets came out with a great game plan and executed it perfectly. Credit Byron Scott for at least the first part of that. Our bigs were physical with Dwight Howard, and we put him on the free throw line rather than give him anything easy around the basket. As ESPN analyst Hubie Brown noted, Hilton Armstrong was left alone to guard Dwight one-on-one, whereas we sent a double team when Marks, Ely or West had the assignment. Mixing it up like that worked well. Coming off a 45-point, 19-rebound, 8-block performance in Charlotte last night, Howard finished with just 12 points, 8 boards and one block against the Hornets, shooting 8-of-15 on FTs. It was the first time in 18 games that he failed to record a double-double.
- I loved the faster pace, too. We didn’t get out on the break much, but there was far less pounding of the ball by West and Paul tonight. Everybody was making quick, decisive moves, always in attack mode. As such we didn’t suffer through all the usual late-in-the-shot-clock desperation heaves. Hopefully this is something Byron has got the team doing consiously, and not just an abberation.
- Speaking of Hubie Brown, it’s so much easier to recap a game that he works. I don’t have to concentrate so hard on every play and try spot every adjustment, because I know Hubie will see and share the important stuff. Bob and Gil, please aspire to be that kind of announcer.
- Wonderful job by our bigs tonight. Ely finished with the best numbers, but really it was an excellent performance from the trio of him, Marks and Armstrong. They used their fouls wisely for the most part, and they helped us finish with a 46-35 rebounding edge in a game where we were supposed to get killed on the boards.
- The defense by our wings was nothing to be sneezed at either. A lot of Orlando’s struggles tonight can be attributed to plain old cold shooting and Hedo’s elbow troubles, but there was no denying that guys like Peja, Posey and Butler made life difficult for the Magic on the perimeter. Good solid closeouts, rotations and help in the lane.
- Offensively, pretty much everyone was sharp. Except maybe David West, but he was smart enough not to force much and so had an effective scoring night. Looked like Orlando were intent on doubling every time he caught the ball below the foul line, but he was able to get some buckets by staying out high and firing.
- The 117 points are a season high for the Hornets, and the most allowed by Orlando this season. Not bad against a team ranked second in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Also, this was by far the Magic’s biggest loss of the season, having only lost three previous games this season by double digits. One of those was a 19-point loss in Boston, the other two were 10-point defeats vs. the Mavs and Celtics.
- I love Stan Van Gundy. He was mic’d up for the game, and early in the fourth he was heard telling his assisants “we haven’t had a game plan or an adjustment tonight that’s worked, so no point yelling at our guys. This is all on us.” I hate to take a jab at Byron Scott after such a performance (or do I?), but I doubt you’d ever hear such a statement from him.
Some parting thoughts:
On ESPN’s NBA Shootaround before the game, Stuart Scott, Avery Johnson and Jamal Mashburn were debating which player is more import to their team, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard. I recall Avery going with with Dwight (and had a great line to defend his choice: “Chris Paul, I’m still angry with him. He got me fired!”).
That debate got me thinking about which player I’d rather start a franchise with, Paul or Howard? I’ve decided I’d go with CP for one main reason: he has no obvious flaw in his game. Dwight obviously does have a pretty big one, as we saw tonight when the Hornets decided to foul consistently and dared him to beat us with his 60 percent free throw shooting.
Now of course that tactic doesn’t work all the time or Howard wouldn’t be a top-five MVP candidate or even an All-Star. But it works often enough for me to take Paul, who can hit from any distance with such accuracy now that he’s damn near impossible to stop. Try double team him and he’ll just beat both defenders with the dribble or find the open man. Sometimes he’ll beat both defenders, then find the open man, just for kicks.
Not to sell Howard short though, I have to say he’d be my second choice behind Paul if I could pick anyone in the NBA to start a franchise with. Yes, even ahead of LeBron, Kobe, and the rest. I see Paul and Howard as two of the best character guys in the League; not just great players, but also great people. I’m not a big fan of LeBron’s egocentric marketing-driven persona, and while I have come to respect Kobe a lot, he’s now a little too old to be starting a franchise with, and he doesn’t have anywhere near the crowd-pleasing personality that Paul and Howard possess.