The Hornets beat the Kings

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Published: April 1, 2009

What a game. After the Kings abused us all night long from three-point range, it was only fitting that a buzzer-beating triple by Rasual Butler would be their undoing. Live by the three, die by the three.

It was one crazy finish in Sacramento. In the final three minutes, we had Hilton Armstrong and Devin Brown miss four free throws, Rashad McCants and Francisco Garcia hitting long J’s to keep the Kings in it, a fit-for-a-wheelchair David West converting a three-point play off a bullet feed from Chris Paul, an amazing block by Garcia on CP’s fast break layup, followed by some awesome transition defense by Julian Wright to prevent an easy two by Andres Nocioni. The Kings then reset and Beno Udrih threw in an off-balance, sideways runner to put them up two with 1.7 seconds left. Plenty of time for Garcia and Nocioni to miscommunicate on a switch and leave Butler all alone for three. I’m not sure my elderly neighbor on oxygen support appreciated me screaming Rasual’s name and jumping around my living room at 11:45 p.m. on a Tuesday night.

111-110 Hornets the final.

Bullets…

  • Gotta start with David West. He tweaked that left ankle midway through the second quarter. It didn’t look like he turned it that bad, but he was in obvious discomfort for the rest of the game. He couldn’t even walk without a noticeable limp, let alone run. Still, he played the entire second half and finished with 40 points (15-of-25 shooting), 9 rebounds and 6 assists. 24 of his points came after he got hurt. Mostly he burned the Kings with his jumper, but he also wasn’t shy about posting up and getting in the lane. Gutsy performance by the big guy.
  • That said, I have to play devil’s advocate here and question why West was even out there in the second half. I realize every game is big right now, but if the Hornets really are determined to be healthy for the playoffs — as they claim to be by giving Tyson and Peja extended time to rest and recuperate — then playing your second-best player for ~30 minutes on a bad wheel isn’t the way to do it, especially against a bad team and on the first night of a back-to-back. And although West came through huge for us offensively tonight, we got burned numerous times because he couldn’t rotate at all on the defensive end. I was hoping Byron would take him out and go small ball on the Kings, try run them off the floor.

    Yeah, I know, I shouldn’t complain too much. We did get the win, West probably told Byron to keep him on the floor, and he might be fine by tomorrow’s game against the Clippers. Still, risky move.

  • It seems Francisco Garcia is quite the superstar in his own mind. He did actually play a good game today, scoring 19 points on 11 shots and playing some nice D despite having to guard Paul for significant stretches. I was just bothered by his high-stepping and mug-flashing antics throughout. Do that when you’re a key player on a playoff team, fine. When you’re coming off the bench for the worst team in the league? Not so much.
  • Byron went to a zone defense for the fourth quarter, mostly with Paul and Brown up high and Sean Marks at the center. It worked surprisingly well, helping us turn a 4-point deficit into an 8-point lead. Marks made up for the gimpy West and was able to deter and challenge the Sacramento drives, and everyone did a nice job getting out on the shooters. It also led to some steals and fast break opportunities which we took advantage of.
  • The Kings were on fire from deep in the first quarter, ending up with 38 points in the period. I didn’t mind so much because I felt we challenged a lot of those shots, while our guys were busy getting and hitting much better looks at the other end. I was impressed though that Sacramento were able to compliment their three-point shooting by getting to the free throw line a bunch. The were 18-of-21 from the line in the first half, but thankfully we were able to cut down on the fouls and give them only 6 free throw attempts after halftime. That was key.
  • Some other numbers: The Hornets shot 18-of-27 from the free throw line, West sinking all ten of his freebies. We had a 41-29 advantage on the boards, and a 44-24 edge in points in the paint. Both teams took care of the ball, the Hornets turning it over 7 times, Sacto 8. Last time the Hornets scored 100 points was 11 games ago against the Wizards.
  • Chris Paul struggled with his shot, finishing just 5-of-15 from the field. He did of course offset that with 15 assists and only one turnover. He seemed to settle for the jumper a lot tonight, even with guys like Hawes switching onto him on the pick and roll, and Garcia manning up on him for a while. To me it seems like we’re seeing less of Chris Paul’s aggressiveness late in the season, and you have to wonder if he’s saving some for the playoffs or if maybe all these minutes are taking their toll.
  • Rasual finished with 18 points on 7-of-16 shooting. After making just 3-of-19 shots for 13 total points in his previous two games, it was nice to see him knocking them down somewhat consistently in this one. Defensively, he got burned several times by Kevin Martin, who was able to blow right by him and get in the lane. I would have liked to see Julian Wright get that assignment for a stretch, see what he could do. Although knowing Martin’s ability to draw fouls, it might not have been pretty.
  • JuJu was great in the first half, knocking down jumpers, running the break, grabbing rebounds. He finished with 14 points (7-of-8 FGs) and 5 boards. Byron seemed to sour on him in the second half after a bad post feed to Hilton and a couple of defensive lapses. As a result, he didn’t play most of the fourth quarter, but he was out there for the final 90 seconds of the ball game.
  • Hilton. Foul trouble. Pity. Good positioning, rolling, finishing, rebounding. 9 points, 7 boards, 22 minutes.
  • According to Gerry V, referee Monty McCutchen turned to Chris Paul and exclaimed “You don’t know my profession!” after CP questioned him about a non-call in the second quarter.
  • Great job once again by the reserves at the start of Q2. They stepped up the defensive intensity, limiting the Kings to just 7 points in the first six minutes. The offense was pretty stagnant, but Wright and Daniels were able to knock down some jumpers to keep it rosy.

    In all, we outscored the Kings 14-7 with Paul on the bench in the second quarter. Better yet, in the last five games combined, the Hornets have outscored opponents 73-34 sans CP in Q2. Interesting to note that Morris Peterson has been on the floor for all but about three of those minutes. Coincidence?

The standings are worth a look after this one. In other action tonight, the Spurs lost at home to the Thunder, the Mavs beat the TWolves, the Nuggets beat the Knicks and the Blazers hammered the Jazz. Put it all together and it means that we’ve leaped Utah and now have the 6th seed in the West. Somehow we’re just 1.5 games behind the Spurs and Rockets for the division lead.

Late game again tomorrow night, as the Hornets take on the Clippers in L.A. Let’s hope D-West can borrow Tyson’s good ankle for that one.

UPDATES:

Frank Knezic twittered a nice new nickname for Rasual Butler after this one: Regicide. From Wikipedia:

The broad definition of regicide is the deliberate killing of a monarch, or the person responsible for the killing of a monarch. In a narrower sense, in the British tradition, it refers to the judicial execution of a king after alleged due process of law.

Also, video of Rasual’s buzzer beater:

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