The Hornets beat the Kings

Published: October 31, 2009

The Hornets came out victorious in their home opener, downing the Kings 97-92 ( box | recap ). It was a tight contest throughout. The Kings were a jump shooting team early while the Hornets got plenty of points at the free-throw line. Sacto appeared the more poised team through the middle quarters and started to control the boards while the Hornets couldn’t get anything working consistently. The bench got New Orleans off to a solid start in the fourth and Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor were money down the stretch to seal it.

Let’s jump into some bullets:

  • It was a great battle between Chris Paul and Kings’ rookie Tyreke Evans. Apparently Evans had a rough debut against OKC’s Russell Westbrook on Wednesday, but he didn’t show any signs of a hangover. He was physical with CP much of the night, more than willing to push back, post Chris up and drive right at him. Evans’ height seemed to give CP some problems at both ends of the floor, and we saw a few uncharacteristic mistakes out of the world’s greatest point guard. But you knew it would be Paul having the last laugh. He scored 13 in the fourth quarter, including four clutch free throws, and finished with 31 points. Evans, meanwhile, saw his night end badly when he bricked a three and got blocked in the lane in the final minute.
  • Emeka Okafor was rock solid: 11 points (5-8 FGs), 13 boards and 4 blocks. It was his arm blocking Evans with seven seconds left, and he also got a piece of what would have been a game-tying triple by Kevin Martin right at the death. Great read by Okafor on that last one, since Chris Paul had been screened out of the play, leaving Martin running free to the corner. Oh, and let’s not forget that huge put-back jam Okafor had with 44 seconds left. I’m loving the big man’s work so far this season. Looking forward to seeing what he can bring when his conditioning is all the way there.

  • Big red flag: no PT for the Hornets rookies. Marcus Thornton was inactive again, while Darren Collison never got to take off his sweats. Byron will be getting a phone call from George Shinn any day now: “Yeah, Byron, remember what we talked about in the offseason?”
  • With the Hornets trailing 72-75, Byron went with this unit to start the fourth quarter: Bobby Brown, Peja Stojakovic, James Posey, Darius Songaila and Hilton Armstrong. That was eerily similar to the disastrous lineup we saw in San Antonio (just swap Songaila for West). As noted by At The Hive, the problem there is that you have a bunch of guys who can’t create their own shot playing with a shoot-first point guard. I was waiting for the bottom to fall out when I saw that tonight, but surprisingly, it didn’t. Brown wasn’t as trigger-happy as he was in San Antonio, while Songaila was able to make some moves, draw and dish for open shots. That unit showed some fight defensively, too. The score was 80-80 at the seven-minute mark, when Byron started bringing the big guns back in.
  • Rebounding was a problem. The Kings had a 24-23 edge on the glass at halftime, but would finish with a 41-33 advantage. They had 21 offensive rebounds, compared to just 10 for the Hornets. Byron commented after the game that his guys were “watching the bird” too much, rather than finding a man to put a body on when the ball was in the air. Luckily though, the Kings were just 2-of-11 on second chance field goals.
  • Helping balance out that rebounding differential: the Hornets were +12 on free-throw attempts, and held the Kings’ to 37.5 percent shooting, 30.4 percent in the second half.
  • I was disappointed to see Julian Wright come out of the game in the third quarter. He was making all sorts of good things happen there for a stretch. While his teammates seemed to be getting distracted by the officials, JuJu was busy banking in jumpers, hustling for offensive rebounds and making deflections to save certain scores by Sacramento. Glad to report very little hesitation and indecision from him so far this season.
  • Morris Peterson has some work to do. I don’t have a lot of faith in him right now. He wasn’t all bad tonight, but too often he left Kevin Martin open for jumpers (luckily K-Mart wasn’t feeling it; 9-of-29 shooting for 20 points), while missing a bunch of open looks himself. Double your poison.
  • Fifteen combined shot attempts for Peja and Posey is about right. They just need to hit more than five of them.

I didn’t get too down on the Hornets after Wednesday’s loss, and I won’t get too high on them after tonight’s win. Needing 48 minutes to beat the Sacramento Kings only further proves that this team has a long way to go. I’m optimistic we’ll see them playing some fine basketball later in the season though. Okafor and Songaila have already impressed me, Ike Diogu can’t be any worse than Hilton Armstrong, and those rookies might make some noise once George makes that phone call.

Boston on Sunday.

UPDATE: Video highlights and Byron Scott addressing the media after the game…

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