Lebrons beat the Hornets

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Published: March 25, 2010

After losing three straight road games to the New Orleans Hornets, dating back to 2006, LeBron James came out hungry Wednesday night. In what’s becoming all too typical of the reigning MVP, James thoroughly dismantled the Hornets defense en route to a stellar 38 point, 9 assist, 6 rebound night.

It sounds odd to say this, but the Bees really missed the defense of their sidelined small forward, Peja Stojakovic. Not known for being a defensive master, Peja has been effective at slowing superstars, including James.

Normally when Lebron comes to town, he’s limited to shooting mostly jump shots, as Peja resorts to doing what he does against all faster marks- backing up a step. What it does is dissuade them from driving to the lane, and instead gives them the open mid-range jump shot. For most star players, this is their least efficient shot, so it works to their opposition’s advantage when they settle for them.

From the get-go it was clear that Mo-P was no match for the faster, stronger, taller, more talented LeBron, but instead of giving him space, he manned up and allowed himself to get beat time and time again. Boy was that a mistake.

In contrast to his last game against the Bees, Lebron seemed involved right from the opening tip, scoring 12 points in the first quarter alone. It didn’t get much better from there, even though James did seem to be more content distributing as the game progressed. The Bees literally had nobody capable of keeping the star from penetrating.

In the fourth quarter, with the Hornets deficit still in the mid-teens, Chris Paul/Jeff Bower suddenly bought Hollinger’s notion that Paul is as close to Magic Johnson as anyone, and consequently should handle Lebron. Bad move. Now don’t get me wrong, if there was an asteroid heading torward Earth, I would want Paul on the spaceship headed to stop it. He’s in front of Jack Bower on my list of people to inform regarding terrorist threats. If there’s a ghost, screw Ghostbusters, who am I gonna call? CP3.

The problem with basketball is that size really does matter. Lebron can pretty much pass right over the top of Paul, making it nearly impossible for CP to make an impact. If there were eight seconds left and we were up one in game 7 of the championship, then sure, let CP3 take him. You know he’s shooting the rock, so really all you have to do is keep him outside, but it’s not something that’s going to work repeatedly.

Regardless, the decision was made, and that’s that. We’ve seen Paul stop the opposition’s best player before, and we will probably see it again. This time it didn’t work. In their defense, nothing else was working against The King, so trying something unique was really one of the best options on the table. At best it confused him and caused a turnover or two, at worst he continued to dominate. In this case, the latter occurred.

Paul was noticeably out of rhythm throughout the game, struggling offensively in only his second game back from surgery to repair his torn meniscus. He finished with only 5 points and 7 rebounds in 31 minutes of play. It was the first time in years that he had started and not led the team in assists. On the bright side, he was healthy and appeared to be in good shape, despite the poor performance.

Marcus Thornton

Last time buckets played the Cavs he scored 23 in a quarter last time against the Cavs, so we expect that every time now, right?

The young star started out slowly tonight, not getting on the board until the second quarter. He rebounded from the early struggles to finish with 20 points on 17 shots, 5 assists, 4 rebounds and a single turnover. His 1-6 shooting from three point land was far from the norm, but he hit the lane hard, thrice finishing off contorted layups the likes of which we rarely see from anyone not named CP3. I can rhyme sort of, you see?

Darren Collison

Darren played well both with Chris Paul and without him. His 17 points on 13 shots, and 7 assists against 2 turnovers, looks like the kind of line that we might come to expect from Collison quite often in his new role.

So far he looks good coming off the bench which is something that all of us had hoped for. What’s most noticeable to me about his play since CP3 returned is that he’s not forcing the issue quite so much. When Paul was out, Collison was literally the only point guard on the team, so consequently he was often forced into creating, even if he wasn’t grooving. It’s hard having the ball in your hands for 40+ minutes a game, especially as a rookie, and it’s predictable that he would struggle with turnovers. Now that Paul is back, I would expect his assist/TO ration to get back in line with quality of distributor that he is.

Bullet Time

  • Aaron Gray didn’t see the floor against a Shaq-less Cavs team.
  • David West continued his assist spree with six more, one off Collison’s team high.
  • Announced attendance was 18,008, well above capacity, and the highest of the season for the Hornets. Tickets were selling for three times face value in anticipation of the superstar match up between two of the league’s premier superstars.
  • Paul and Okafor connected early in the first quarter on a beautiful pick and roll. Unfortunately, Emeka had to put back his missed layup in order to complete it. Oddly enough that might have been the best overall offensive play of the night by Okafor, who finished with 6 points and 10 rebounds in only 23 minutes

Next game is on Saturday, against Portland.

UPDATE: Game highlights from NBA.com…

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