The Hornets beat the Wizards

The Hornets won their sixth straight game earlier today, knocking off the Wizards in Washington. Once again it proved to be a struggle, as New Orleans allowed the Wiz to shoot 58 percent from the field and out-rebound them 41-29. Thankfully the 3-ball was working though and the Hornets feasted on 19 Washington turnovers.

The Wizards refused to go away in the final minutes and had the game tied at 101 with three minutes left, but then Randy Foye and Nick Young made some bone head plays and the Hornets finally knocked in a few free throws. 115-110 was the final score (box).

Peja Stojakovic

A long-awaited big game from Peja, who started out red hot with 13 first-quarter points and finished with 20 on 7-of-13 shooting. He was the primary option on a numerous set plays and benefited more than once from solid screens by David West. Nothing new there, but the Hornets also had him running off a corner screen into the paint a couple of times and he seemed to have an extra bounce in his step with spins and fades.

Chris Paul

26 points, 10-of-20 shooting, 14 assists, 3 steals, 3 rebounds, 3 turnovers. And at the risk of sounding spoiled, something seemed a little off with Chris in this one. I felt he passed up a lot of open jumpers, missed a couple of layups he usually makes and got a little lost on defensive rotations a few times. The Hornets also tried to exploit Paul’s match-up with the 5-5 Earl Boykins in the fourth quarter, running the same play three times in a row to get CP posted against him, but nothing much came of it, with Paul being forced into a travel the last time.

I liked hearing Paul scolding West late in the second quarter though. After West hedged poorly trying to guard the pick and roll and Randy Foye ended up scoring in the lane, Paul could be heard yelling at West: “You say you gonna show, you better do it!”

Marcus Thornton

Like Peja, Thornton was also long overdue a big game, and he delivered with 15 points (6-8 FGs), 4 rebounds and 3 steals in 18 minutes. The most impressive thing about him tonight was how he shook off a bad start. At the end of the first quarter he saw Nick Young hit a couple of shots over him, then committed two turnovers early in Q2, the second of which was an abysmal pass against the Wiz full court press that ended up behind the scorer’s table. But he shook all of that off and was able to knock down his open looks, get a few deflections and bail the Hornets out a couple of times with tough makes late in the shot clock.

David West

15 points and only 2 rebounds for David West today. Methinks that lack of rebounding had something to do with the Wizards not missing much and West being away from the basket more than usual trying to guard Antawn Jamison, who proved to be a very tough cover and finished with 32 points on 13-of-21 shooting.

Legitimate win streak?

The Hornets have won the past six games by margins of 4, 4, 4, 5, 4 and 5 points. The Bob Lichts will point out that the Hornets have done great to win all those close games, and a win is a win at the end of the day, but I’m not so optimistic. At the level they’re currently playing, I’d expect the Hornets to make the playoffs but I’d also expect them to get bounced easily in the first round.

I’d argue that the only thing that has significantly improved in the past five weeks or so has been the team’s chemistry. Guys have gotten acclimated to each other, are more familiar with their roles and have learned how to compensate for individual weaknesses. While that’s great and I hope it continues, I’m still not overly impressed with the team’s focus and execution at either end of the floor. I’m seeing more offensive plays being run and an effort to get different players different looks, but those attempts appear to break down quite frequently. When the defense takes away the first option, it often looks like the Hornets have no second option to resort to. Plus, the offense will frequently relapse into that over-reliance on Chris Paul.

At the other end of the floor, the perimeter D has left a lot to be desired, with opposing guards getting in the lane with ease off the bounce. Okafor has done a nice job of stepping up and challenging shots, but we’re seeing opponents getting easy second chance points because of that.

So as it currently stands, I’m not smitten with the win streak. I’d love to see the Hornets put together four solid quarters and step on their opponent’s throat once they get that double-digit lead. Hopefully they can do that tomorrow in Philly.

UPDATE: A post-game Journal report from Mr. Kennedy

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