The Hornets beat the Thunder

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Published: January 7, 2010

And the Hornets are finally above .500 and the proud owners of their first 4-game winning streak of the season.  The game itself was great fun to watch as both teams clawed and fought their way throughout the game, refusing to lose contact with the other guy.

Following their usual game plan, the Hornets were content to run the offense through David West for the first 20 minutes of the game, and then when Paul came in from his first rest, he shifted out of first gear and started rolling.  His play in the second half was vital as he shredded the Thunders defense despite being shadowed by two excellent defenders in Westbrook and Sefolosha.  This is where it’s magnificent having a player like Paul as your franchise guy, because he doesn’t give a damn that he’s not getting the big shot.  When it’s vital, he will create all day for his teammates and not force a shot unless there is no other option.  Yes, Posey and West missed big three pointers off passes during crunch time – but they were wide open as the entire team sucked in on Paul.  That’s good basketball.

More Chris Paul

No matter how much I loved Paul’s offensive work down the stretch, it was the last two Thunder possessions of the game that stood out to me.  With 3 points needed to tie, the Thunder came out of the huddle, and 6-foot-9 Kevin Durant found himself covered by 6-foot-nothing Chris Paul.  Not Peja or Brown or Posey, all of whom he’d abused all game long.  Chris Paul.  On the first play, Durant came off a down screen, caught the ball, and Paul was so tight up against him that Durant couldn’t turn and face without exposing the ball to Paul – which is never a good idea.  Instead, he passes off and Brown tips the ball into the crowd near the corner.  Timeout.    The Thunder draw up another play, Paul takes Durant again, and as he runs off another pick towards the sideline, Paul once again tracks him so closely that his pressure combines with West’s pressure on the inbounds passer to deny the lob to Durant.  Paul stays in contact with Durant, the rest of the Hornets trap Westbrook in the corner, and Durant never touches the ball.   That’s game.

Rookie Report

For  the first time in a long time, Bower gave Paul some fourth quarter rest, giving Collison some minutes of fourth quarter run.    Bower is a coach focused on matchups, and whenever fellow rookie Eric Maynor was in the game, Bower felt comfortable running Collison against him.   Collison ended with 9 minutes of run, providing pressure the full length of the court, and generally doing a solid job of staying in front of his man.  He also hit two mid-range jumpers he’d been missing recently, so that was a bonus.

Marcus Thornton got himself 14 minutes of run behind Devin Brown, and he was a mixed bag.  He did alright when he was guarding the offensively challenged Sefolosha, but fellow rookie James Harden took the ball to him, and Thornton couldn’t cope with his strength.  Offensively, he had mistakes, a couple nice open shots, and a couple hesitations that should have been shots.

Other Observations

  • To continue a stat thrown out recently by the Hornet’s broadcast team, the Hornets are now 8-1 when Devin Brown scores 11 points or more.  Anyone else feel that this should fall into the “Duh” category?  If your starting shooting guard plays 34 minutes, he better be a phenomenal defender or be scoring at least 11 points.  Or your team is going to suck.
  • David West quietly had a nice game, with 19 points on 13 shots, 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal and 2 blocks.  His jumper was flowing in the second half, and the only Thunder defender who could stop him from reaching the basket was Jeff Green.  Defensively, he was his usual less-than-stellar self through the first three quarters, but once again, he turned it up in the fourth, providing solid help defense and moving his feet.  Keep turning that corner, Mr. West, and I’ll be happy man.
  • The Hornets got to the basket only 14 times during the game and  converted a remarkable 12 of them.  However, the Thunder managed to get there twice as often(28 times) finishing 19.  It’s good they did, because on mid-range jumpers they only went 12-36.  The Hornets hit a respectable 18 of their 39 mid range shots.
  • Okafor and Paul hooked up for the classic Chandler Alley-oop tonight, to go along with another 4 gorgeous dunks on the pick and roll.   They are really starting to click. And I don’t know if I can say anymore about Okafor’s incredible timing when guarding the rim during crunchtime.

  • Why doesn’t Devin Brown ever close the straps on his shoes?  Sloppy, Devin.  It looks like you can’t afford shoes that fit.
  • Even the postgame interview for the Thunder broadcast was a little tribute to Chris Paul.  The sideline announcer asked Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks, “Great effort down to the wire with the Hornets, right Coach?”  Cheeks nodded and says, “Great effort.  Chris Paul is a great player.  He got inside for that last layup by running a great pick and roll.”  The sideline reporter then responded, “What did you do differently on Paul in the second, because he seemed to get away in the second half?”  Cheeks just shook his head and said, “Chris Paul is an aggressive player.  He picks and chooses when he wants to score, and he decided he wanted to score in the second half.  And when he couldn’t score, he picked our defense apart.”
  • Posey had a solid game.  Does that mean he’s going to suck for the next four?
  • Peja had a solid game.  I can’t even pretend to know what that means for next game.

Next game is Friday, at home, against the New Jersey Nets.  The Hornets have been playing well.  I worry that this will be a trap game, where the guys think they can relax.  This team isn’t good enough to relax.


UPDATE: The usual post-game Journal report for Mr. Kennedy, plus highlights from NBA.com…

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