The Jazz beat the Hornets

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Published: February 18, 2010

The Hornets showed plenty of energy and fight tonight, pushing the pace, keeping their hands active on D and holding their own on the boards until the final minutes. Unfortunately, tonight’s visitors, the Utah Jazz, are quite good at basketball and can win despite excessive turnovers and lousy transition defense.

Still, an enjoyable evening of effort from the Hornets. 98-90 the final score.

Utah’s execution down the stretch

They kept it simple in the final two minutes, running the pick and roll with Williams and Boozer on three consecutive trips. Boozer got to the line the first time, then made a nifty jump-hook over West and Okafor the second time. Not necessarily easy points you might say, but those two efforts set up the back-breaker which was Andrei Kirilenko’s cut and throw down from the weak side on the third trip. West and Posey were so concerned about another pick and roll that they completely forgot about AK47.

Darren Collison vs. Deron Williams

With Collison out-scoring Williams 13-2 and frustrating him repeatedly in the first half, I was beginning to question D-Will’s motivation. Had he been killing the Hornets all this time just to show up Chris Paul? If so, shouldn’t Jazz fans be a little mad that he doesn’t play with that chip on his shoulder more often?

But then Williams came out and dropped 9 points in the first 3:20 of the third quarter and ran that pick and roll to perfection down the stretch, finishing with a nice 16, 10 and 5 line. Seems he’d had enough of being upstaged by a rookie, and he might have redeemed himself even more if not for foul trouble limiting his minutes in the second half.

That said, Collison still deserves heaps of praise for his play tonight. He was in attack mode throughout the game, on the break and in the halfcourt, on offense and on defense. Several times he surprised Williams with a one-man press in the back court, and when D-Will wasn’t left in the dust at the other end he was on his heels. About the only faults in DC’s game tonight were his shot selection and his propensity to be exploited down low by Williams.

Off game for West

West would love to burn the tape of this one. He finished with 5 points (2-9 FGs), 5 rebounds, 6 turnovers, 5 fouls, 3 assists and 3 steals. Early double teams and some silly fouls were just the start of his troubles. When he did get open looks, he couldn’t put them down. And the real tragedy of David West on a night like this is that he can’t make up for his struggles in other areas. He doesn’t have rebounding and defense to fall back on, so he becomes a liability all over the floor. Plus/minus numbers aren’t all that reliable for just one game, but D-West’s team-low -9 tonight seems about right.

Other notes and observations

  • Darius Songaila turned his right ankle going after a loose ball midway through the fourth quarter. It didn’t look all that bad on the replay, but he didn’t play the rest of the game.
  • 8 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks for Emeka Okafor in 26 minutes. Most memorably though, he got absolutely annihilated on a dunk by Boozer in the third quarter. I should mention that I’m not as high on Okafor as I once was, mostly because of his complacency. He’s the polar opposite of Chandler in terms of the emotion he displays on the court. Some might point at Tim Duncan and say that emotion isn’t all that important, but I can’t help but imagine how much better Okafor would be if he played with some fire.
  • Peja and his new ‘do put up 24 points on just 12 shots. Once again, he showed some great moves out there, driving hard on occasion and creating his own shot. Long may that last.
  • I’m not sure how long ago Deron got rid of his Backstreet Boys beard. I’m just glad it’s gone.
  • Paul Millsap was a killer. 24 points off the bench on 11-of-13 shooting, plus 8 boards, 3 blocks and 3 steals to boot. He was seemingly everywhere, scoring inside and out, coming up with loose balls, setting hard picks, opening up beautifully, swooping in and erasing layups. He kept his team afloat amid a sea of turnovers in the first half and was largely responsible for keeping David West in check down the stretch.
  • Chris Paul was interviewed by Jordy 2.0 during the second quarter, and mentioned that today was his first day off the crutches. Yay.
  • Marcus Thornton looked good in his second game back from injury, though he shot poorly en route to his 14 points. His aggressiveness was back in full effect though, which is always a pleasure to watch.
  • James Posey and Morris Peterson turned in performances uglier than that Mardi Gras baby.
  • My favorite play of the game, final minute of the second quarter: Collison making Williams stumble with a behind the back crossover move at the free throw line, then stepping back and nailing the jumper.

Next up, the Hornets host the Indiana Pacers on Friday. But before that, there’s the small matter of the trade deadline tomorrow at 2 p.m. Central. There haven’t been any significant whispers of potential deals involving the Hornets, but that’s just how Jeff Bower likes it.

UPDATE: Game highlights from NBA.com…

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