The Hornets beat the Suns

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Published: November 20, 2009

Tonight, the Hornets simply out-hustled the Phoenix Suns and evened Jeff Bower’s head coaching record at 2-2.  The Hornets owned a +18 edge on the glass and had an astonishing 25 offensive rebounds – one more than the total number of defensive rebounds the Suns had.  The Hornets now stand at 5-8, hardly an impressive record, but there was one very important difference between this game and the games we saw under Byron Scott:  The guys didn’t quit. 

The Suns were down three at the half after battling back from being down big in the first quarter.  They then came out and ripped off a 16-5 run to open the second half, and it looked like the Hornets were letting it slide out of control.  Instead, the Hornets simply buckled down, attacked the screen and roll, got back in transition, and fought back.  By the end of the third, the Hornets had reclaimed their lead and didn’t back down the rest of the way.  Good stuff.

Observations:

  • Just a few hours after I make a joke about worrying about Peja taking open threes, he goes out and has his best game of the last two seasons.  25 points and 13 rebounds.  7-11 from three.  He was even in amongst the trees digging out offensive rebounds, and he came away with 5.  Do you know the last time Peja had 5 offensive rebounds?  January 6, 2006.  When he still played for Sacramento.  The team was running plays for him all night – and not just the simple “catch and shoot” plays off screens like Byron used to run.  They were sending him across the paint regularly(probably a reason for the rebounds), which kept the Suns scrambling, and West and Okafor were setting staggered screens in the paint for him to weave through probably every fourth possession.  In fact, I noticed that by the end of the game, Peja looked a little ragged.  He probably hadn’t worked that hard in game in a long time.  But it worked.  And that three he hit with 2 minutes to go was icing on the cake for a turn-back-the-clock game for him.
  • Darren Collison was ice cold in every sense of the phrase.  For the first three quarters, he was ice cold and unable to buy a shot.  They weren’t bad shots, they were just falling short.  In the fourth quarter, he was ice cold as he drilled two huge shots – first a pull-up three(his first of the season) and then a beautiful drive into the paint and fake pass to Okafor that allowed him to finish a nifty layup at the rim.  It took some real balls to take those shots as he was 2-13 up to that point, but he was up for it. He piled two free throws on top of that to help seal the game, meaning he is now shooting 95% from the free throw stripe.  15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal and only one turnover in 32 minutes.

  • At some point, I’m going to have to stop bashing  Brown if he keeps playing like this.  He scored 19 tonight on 17 shots, and he had his inevitable ugly-looking drives, but he stretched the floor, knocked down his open threes, battled on the boards, and played very solid defense on Jason Richardson, who has no jets to use to burn him.  Brown also added 5 assists, and it was he and Marcus Thornton’s aggression in the third that turned the game around.  Brown also had the niftiest pass of the game – a no-look wrap-around pass as he dribbled away from the basket to Darius Songaila for an easy basket.  Nice.  Oh – that was all about Devin Brown, not Bobby, who was terrible. 
  • Bobby Brown got the Pargo treatment:  He entered the game, took his bad shots, Bower realized he wasn’t hitting them, and nailed him to the bench.  That’s the proper way to handle him.
  • Thornton was a great energizer off the bench.  Once again, he put up 19 points on 12 shots in only 20 minutes.  He leads the team in usage rate, and I doubt that’ll change anytime soon . . . and I’m fine with it.  He clearly fears no one, driving into a flagrant foul by Amare Stoudemire, and he shows extremely high basketball IQ in the way he moves through screens and continuously fools his defenders into giving him an open back-cut to the rim.  He tweaked his ankle in the third when he stepped on a fan’s foot, but his ankle was taped and he was ready to go in the fourth, even if Bower elected not to use him.
  • With West struggling with foul trouble, the Hornets opted to go small rather than use Marks who is struggling with an injury of his own.  They instead moved Songaila to center and Posey to Power Forward.  They held their own during that time – though that may be more a testament to Amare Stoudemire’s allergy for rebounds than any superior skill on the boards by those two.
  • Every time the camera went to the Hornets bench, Chris Paul was talking, talking, talking.  To teammates, coaches, the refs, everyone.  And he was as excited as anyone to see Collison hit those two huge shots.  If he wasn’t a superstar, he’d be the best towel-waving teammate in the league.
  • Anyone else notice the Hornets opened the game daring Channing Frye to shoot?  Ballsy move.  The guy had been knocking them down so far this season.  Later, in the second half, the Hornets suddenly started blitzing him, and on five separate possessions he either hesitated before firing and didn’t get the shot off in rhythm, or ended up passing it off to Steve Nash – essentially forcing a reset of their offense.
  • Okafor was a fiend in the first quarter as he collected offensive rebounds and putbacks.  The Suns were awful at boxing him out, as he was usually jumping for the ball without someone even pushing at him.  I laughed when he got his vicious putback slam in the third, because his cover Channing Frye had made a nonsensical decision.  When Thornton shot, Frye immediately disengaged with Okafor and instead boxed out Darius Songaila.  Me?  I’m thinking Okafor would be the guy I’d try to box out.  Okafor finished with 13 and 10 and some nice defense.
  • There will be some who trash David West after this game because of his weak rebound numbers and missed shots.  They’d be justified.
  • Okay, I can’t leave it there.  While West struggled with his shot, I need to point out that the Suns were collapsing on him every time he got near the paint.  Double teams were coming constantly.  Despite his bad shooting, the focus he demanded from the Suns made a big difference.  He got 5 assists himself(for the second game) and he generated multiple open shots as the ball swung around the perimeter after they collapsed on him in the post.  Now, if only he’d rotate and box out.
  • Posey was terrible in his first stint as he left Jared Dudley open for wide open three pointers and committed stupid fouls.  In his second stint – maybe because he realized the Hornets could actually win – he was working hard, fighting for rebounds, and hit an important three pointer.  Personally, I preferred it when Songaila was out there.  He worked hard every minute of the game.  Not just at the end.

That’s it.  The Hornets get another huge test on Saturday as the Hawks come visiting.  Maybe the Hornets can pull off another surprise revenge game.  Wouldn’t that be sumthin’.

Highlights:


UPDATE: Check out Mr. Kennedy’s usual post-game Journal report, and here’s video of Jeff Bower addressing the media after the game:

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