The Hornets beat the Jazz (in Utah no less)

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Published: January 5, 2010

That game was bundles of fun. The Hornets were getting pushed around early and giving up easy baskets, but played some great defense beyond the first quarter and ran the ball about as well as I’ve seen all season. Devin Brown had himself a career night and Chris Paul came up clutch to give the Hornets just their third road win of the season, and their first in Utah in almost four years.

91-87 the final score (box).

Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams

We’ll get this out of the way first. Deron had a much steadier than Chris game tonight, finishing with 17 points (6-11 FGs) and 11 assists. He landed hard after making a layup midway through the fourth and hurt his right arm. He didn’t make much noise after that.

Chris struggled a whole lot through the first three quarters, only getting his first field goal with 2:19 left in the third. He was money down the stretch though, repeatedly using a high pick to shed Williams and then blowing right by Millsap for layups. CP finished with 12 points (5-15 FGs) and 9 assists.

Perhaps the biggest play of the game was Paul’s steal with 45 seconds left and the Hornets ahead 86-82. David West had just turned it over trying to kick it out of the post, and Williams led the break with Andrei Kirilenko streaking and only Chris between them. Somehow CP contorted around and got a hand on the bounce pass, making up for a lazy missed three not a minute earlier. He then came down, took another high screen and left Millsap in the dust. Game over.

Emeka Okafor

If ever a stat line didn’t do a performance justice, it was Emeka Okafor’s tonight. The boxscore reports 5 points, 8 boards and 3 blocks for the big man, but his fingerprints were all over this win. Carlos Boozer was abusing David West in the first quarter with Okafor on the bench due to foul trouble. Okafor took the Booz assignment when he got back in the game and did a much better job of it.

Beyond the three blocks, I also counted five shots that Emeka disrupted, and he was constantly in there battling for rebounds and creating opportunities for his teammates on the boards. His biggest play was the offensive rebound he chased down and saved with about three minutes left in the game, getting the ball back out to CP and ending up on top of the Jazz bench. Phenomenal hustle.

Oh, and those picks that Chris Paul found so helpful? Okafor set them all.

Devin Brown

A 30-point outburst for Devin Brown tonight, a career-high for him and an amused face for me. He shot 11-of-20 from the field, including 5-of-8 from downtown. Ridiculous. To quote his fake Twitter feed:

Hey Utah, how’s that 30 burger tasting? Devin all inside ya mouth!

Besides knocking down those triples, much credit to him for running the floor and finishing well on the break. We needed all he had tonight with Paul and Peja struggling to score.

One thing that bugged me about Devin in this one: several times he got taken out of the defense by the softest of screens. I guess we can’t expect miracles from him on both ends.

Thoughts on the Jazz

They didn’t look all that sharp, and lacked the offensive discipline I’m used to seeing from them. Really they should have been blowing the Hornets out in the first half, but they missed a lot of easy looks and failed to stretch that lead. I thought they would have been better off pulling Mehmet Okur earlier and rolling with both Millsap and Boozer inside, since West was having trouble guarding the post.

David West

As mentioned, Boozer made West look silly early, out-muscling and out-pacing him repeatedly. West more than made up for that on the other end though, display a smooth shooting stroke all night and finishing with 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting. He also had 9 boards, 3 steals and 2 blocks.

Also to his credit, West handled Millsap surprisingly well in the fourth quarter, stepping up his defensive effort right when the Hornets needed it most. I noted him hustling hard several times; helping, challenging, boxing out. I’m long past hoping for him to sustain that kind of effort for an entire game, just glad to see it during crucial stretches.


Bullets to finish…

  • Morris Peterson got some PT for the first time since November. He knocked in a corner three, missed two more, grabbed two boards and turned it over twice in nine minutes. Nothing special. I have to admit I don’t have much faith in him at this point — I don’t think he can do much besides spot up — but I’m all for Bower giving him a few games to see if he’s got anything left. A string of DNP’s for Marcus Thornton though and I’ll change my tune.
  • Darius Songaila missed three open jumpers in this game. I scratched my head.
  • I should really give the Hornets D more praise. The Jazz average 100 points on 48.4 percent shooting, but tonight saw them score just 87 on 37.9 percent shooting. Amazing considering they poured in 32 points in the first quarter.
  • I liked Collison’s effort in 11 minutes tonight. He got some time against Williams and didn’t back down, battling him hard in the post. Collison also pushed the tempo nicely and stayed poised in the half court. Pity he lost that ball out of bounds on the fast break at one point; looked like he was fixing to flush that one. You’d have been seeing it over and over on Sportscenter had he kept it together.

So, .500 at last. Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

UPDATE: Mr. Kennedy’s got your post-game Journal report, and then there’s the usual highlights from NBA.com:

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