The New Orleans Hornets beat the Nuggets tonight to remain undefeated. It was a thrilling 101-95 victory that had the crowd jacked up, and left fans wanting more. When Chris Paul checked back in with 9 minutes to go in the fourth quarter you could just tell that he wasn’t going to let this one get away. It was one of those games.
After falling into a fast 8-0 deficit, reminiscent of the game which must not be named, the Hornets settled down on offense, and got their rotations in gear on defense. They outscored the Nuggets 59-42 the rest of the first half.
Jarryd Bayless relieved Paul with about two minutes to go in the first quarter, and the Bees up 25-23. After describing himself as a point guard earlier in the week, Bayless gave it away twice right away. He would pick it up in first minutes of the second quarter, scoring and and 2 assists. He looks good out there, and it’s a wonder how the Hornets were able to get him for so little.
With about 45 seconds to go in the first quarter, Willie Green unleashed a slam dunk, which as of now is the best of the Hornets season.They called it “The Halloween Hammer”.Â Although nobody is entirely sold on Willie Green, he does a lot of things that coaches like and will continue to see time.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu was the first big man off the bench today, although DJ Mbenga again saw time at center. Pops seems to be a superior option so far and should see increased minutes going forward.
Marcus Thornton came in with 10:00 to go in the second quarter, and was immediately on fire. He played as part of a three guard lineup with Willie Green and Jerryd Bayless, with Bayless operating the point. The trio led the way as the Hornets took an 11 point lead before Paul checked back in. Despite Monty saying that the three guard lineup of game one was more based on match ups, it makes sense that he will be implementing it throughout the season considering the depth the Hornets have at the guard position. Using a three guard lineup, the Hornets were +14 in the first half.
But I digress. Thornton looks like a much improved player out there on defense. He’s actively checking his man and trying to get into the open passing lanes. When he’s missing his assignment, he’s realizing it much earlier than he has in the past, and literally sprinting to recover.Â You can see that he is deliberately positioning himself exactly where the coaches have told him to be.
The energy is still there, and he’s proving his value again after a depressing disappointing preseason. Offensively he looks like his old self, but somehow more confident if that’s even possible. He saw some time with the starters as well, staying on the court for the remainder of the half. Apparently Monty Williams liked what he saw. In the second half Thornton was the first guy off the bench, replacing Marco Belinelli. Thornton took him the 6th man of the game award for the first time of the season as well.
Speaking of Cookies, he loves to drive the hoop, and that’s great, but not when he’s passing up wide open threes to do it. The team needs him to take every single open three he gets. He finished just 2-8 (1-3 from deep). He easily should have taken five three pointers.
Jason Smith had a nice dunk, but was otherwise ineffective. Seems like Aaron Gray gave a lot more last year, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him active sooner rather than later. Smith struggled hard on defense, gave up easy buckets inside, turned it over a couple times, and committed stupid fouls. Jump shooting big men can’t afford to give up so much defensively.
Trevor Ariza’s defense makes me smile. If he can ever get his three point shot to hit, the Hornets will be that much more scary. If you were looking for proof that his signing was a good one, this would be a good game to reference. Four steals, four rebounds, and four assists is a stat line that the Hornets would like to see more often from Ariza.
Emeka Okafor continues to settle for layups under the basket, even when guarded by small forwards. DUNK THE ROCK. He did manage to slam one home, but most of his points were on layups. Nonetheless, it was a good game for Emeka on both ends of the floor. A key block in the fourth quarter got the crowd on it’s feet, and the arena buzzing. Without him, it’s unlikely this would have been a victory. It’s troubling to think what would happen if he were to get injured, so I’ll stop thinking about that now and won’t even mention how many games in a row he’s played.
- Former Saints coach Jim Mora was in the house, and received a loud ovation from the sparse crowd.
- Former Hornet Melvin Ely played for the Nuggets, further proving that he is somehow still seeing time on an NBA court.
- When Peja hits a three the crowd still goes considerably more nuts than they do for anyone not named Paul. Still, he is not a key part of this team anymore and will probably be moved at some point.
- The Hornets have a jump rope squad now that performs during breaks. Very 1980′s if you ask me.
- The player introductions were done by an extremely creepy character who looked right out of the WWF. I didn’t get a name, but hopefully nobody runs into him after the game.
- Continuing in the Halloween spirit, there was a pumpkin pie eating contest. No hands allowed. If there was ever a contest you don’t want to be asked to participate in, this might be it.
- Paul was called for his first technical foul of the season, when he complained in mid air about a Denver foul not being of the shooting variety. It didn’t matter since the Nuggets were over the limit at the time, and he got to shoot anyway. The new technical foul rules are pretty absurd, if I do say so myself.
- Chris Paul also NEVER gets up on his own anymore. He was always one to stay down for help, but lately he’s been demanding it every time he’s on the ground (a lot). I’m unsure if that’s related to his knee surgery, but next time I get a chance I’ll ask.
- Monty Williams, The Hornets, and I are undefeated on the season. Take that, Ryan, Michael, and the Heat.
- A rather sparse crowd shouldn’t be reason for concern. It’s Voodoofest in New Orleans and many fans opted to attend that instead of the game. More concerning should be the pitiful opening night attendance.
Speaking of fans that love music, I’ll be forgoing the post game press conference in favor Voodoofest related activities, so don’t hold your breath for updates.
Next game is 7:30 ct tomorrow in San Antonio.