The Hornets beat the Nets

A disappointing win for the Hornets tonight, if there is such a thing. Facing a woeful 3-win Nets team at New Orleans Arena, the Hornets led for most of the game, several times going up double digits, but they could never quite blow it open. The Nets were able to score with ease for much of the night, and finally put together some defensive stops in the fourth, overcoming a ten-point deficit in the final two minutes to steal the lead with eleven seconds remaining. Thankfully Chris Paul had some heroics up his sleeve and Yi Jianlian saw fit to set an illegal pick, resulting in the Hornets coming away with their fifth straight win. 103-99 the final score (box).

David West and Chris Paul

Those two guys were the heroes for the Hornets tonight. Everyone else was suspect.

West came up huge, scoring 32 points on just 18 shots, grabbing 10 rebounds (5 offensive) and doing a solid job guarding Brook Lopez and Yi at different times. West’s jumper was dialed in and the Nets gave him plenty of room to fire. Bad idea for them.

The Nets gave Paul plenty of attention on defense and so he didn’t look to score much, launching just 9 shots and making 4 of them. CP was content to suck in the defense and find his teammates for open looks. Half of his 18 assists were to David West, and he surely would have had a bunch more dimes had his wingmen been hitting.

Nets zone

The Nets played a lot of 2-3 zone tonight, more zone than I’d seen from a Hornets opponent all season. They tried it a few times in the first half, never lasting more than a couple of trips at a time. Then they went to it almost exclusively for the first nine minutes of the fourth quarter. I guess you could say it worked, but only because New Orleans missed a bunch of open jumpers. The Hornets had their best success against the zone when they played Paul off the ball. He was starting in the corner, running across and screening whoever was in the other corner, trying to stretch the zone and open up the middle. West was able to take advantage of that space some, and once Paul opened up off the screen and canned an open jumper when nothing came of the initial attack.

Emeka Okafor

Not a good night’s work for Emeka. He must have been hanging out with Hilton Armstrong a little too much recently, because he fumbled the ball several times during the game, committed three fouls in 18 seconds in the fourth quarter, and gave up a big three point play to Brook Lopez in the final minute. Interesting though that he finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds in this one, compared to that 5-point, 8-rebound performance against Utah on Monday that I deemed spectacular.

Flipping to bullet mode…

  • 7-27 from the field, 2-14 from three. That was the combined shooting of Peja Stojakovic, Devin Brown and Marcus Thornton tonight. Plenty of those misses were wide open looks. Thornton proved a liability on both ends, as Keyon Dooling seemed to do a lot of his damage against him.
  • Okay, I lied about only Paul and West playing well. Songaila was nice, too. He got a lot of the same looks West was getting, and was happy to cash in. 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting. All his scoring came in the second quarter.
  • In case you’re wondering, yes, I did notice all those questionable calls down the stretch, but I’m still at the Arena as I write this and so I haven’t seen any replays. I’ll reserve judgment until I do.
  • The Nets shot 9-of-17 from deep, which is exceptional for them. They’re the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA this season, converting just 27.3 percent of their long bombs. Also exceptional was New Jersey winning the rebounding battle, 44-41. The Nets hadn’t out-rebounded anybody in their previous 23 games.
  • Play of the game nominees: Thornton’s oop to Julian Wright was nice. That accounted for 2 of the Hornets 21 fastbreak points (most of which came in the first half). One particular dime of Paul’s also deserves mention here: 1:23 left in the first quarter and he unleashed a behind-the-back crossover on the break, then found Peja streaking to the rim for an easy bucket. Thing of beauty.
  • Sebastian Pruiti at Nets Are Scorching had mentioned Devin Harris’ lousy defense this season, noting that he tends to reach too much instead of trying to stay in front of his man. I noticed tonight that Harris has a terrible defensive stance, barely bending his legs at all. Tough to react to the moves of the offensive player when you’re standing up straight.
  • This was the 16th 30-10 game of West’s career, which is a franchise record. He was tied with Alonzo Mourning, who had fifteen 30-10 games with the Hornets.

So we’re still waiting on the first blowout win with Jeff Bower as coach. Hornets will look for it in Washington on Sunday. Noon tip.

UPDATE: Mr. Kennedy delivers another post-game Journal report, and here are the game highlights:

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