The Hornets beat the Clippers 101-82 to continue their best start in franchise history, and remain undefeated. After a whistle filled first five minutes of basketball, the Hornets had a nine point lead over the Clippers, and that was that. They would extend the lead to 20-5, behind a big first quarter by Emeka Okafor, and from that point on it was evident that the Hornets were on their way to their first blowout victory of the year. Fortunately for Q-Pon fans, that gave coach Williams an opportunity to give some time to the rookie. We will get to that shortly.
The first quarter can be summed up by looking at the Clippers team numbers- Seven fouls, a defensive violation, and five turnovers. Defensively the Hornets played their usual game (feels nice to say that), rotating well, and sending their big men up top while defending the pick and roll. The Clippers offense struggled to find a groove all night, and aside from Al-Farouq Aminu there weren’t a lot of positives for them.
By the end of the second quarter the Clippers had narrowed the lead to only seven, but it was just one of those games that you knew the Hornets had under control. Last year there wasn’t one game in which I felt certain the Hornets would win, but this year that just isn’t the case. This was a game the Hornets were supposed to win, and even when things were looking less than stellar you just knew that they would pull it out. It’s what I felt in 2007-2008, and it’s what I imagine Laker fans feel like just about every day of every year.
Rasual Butler (aka The Phoenix) went 0-5 in the first half, but went 4-4 in the first 8 minutes of the second half to keep the Clippers within striking distance (10). Fortunately this Hornets team isn’t going to let a guy like Rasual beat them. As he was draining jumpers, the Hornets kept rotating well and forced the rest of the team to commit turnovers.
A series of suspect Hornets fouls got the Clippers back within three with 2:30 left in the quarter, but as I said; this was the Hornets game the entire way though. Not even the refs could keep it from being what it was. By the end of the quarter the lead was 10 again, and The Hive was buzzing.
Quincy Pondexter started the second quarter for the Bees, and calmly sunk his first NBA pointer within the first minute, then followed it up by faking a three on the next possession and driving the hole for a reverse layup. It was an excellent beginning to his second NBA game, even though it went downhill from there. He came back in to start the fourth quarter as well, and was on the the floor as the Hornets extended their lead from 10 to 20.
One thing to notice is how aware Pondexter is on defense. I mentioned yesterday that Marcus Thortnon has had his head on a swivel recently, and the same can be said about Pondexter. He appears very aware on the defensive end, which bodes well for his future. After Summer League Monty Williams talked about how he has the capability to guard three positions, and that could make him a very valuable bench player for the Hornets, who don’t have anyone like that coming off the pine. He finished with 7 points on 6 shots.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu saw some uneventful time in the late second quarter, but nothing came of it. He would enter again late in the fourth, and again did nothing. I will say, he’s an active player on both ends.
Willie Green might be my new favorite player. I don’t want to like him this much because I know he’s not that good, but that guy just makes me smile. After hearing that he was a blue-collar player, I didn’t expect too much, but he’s been fantastic this year off the bench. 19 points (15 in the fourth quarter) on 10 shots, as well as an attempted dunk which was 100% rejected by the rim. That was probably the second saddest part of the evening.
Jerryd Bayless struggled on both ends of the floor in the first half. He continues having a hard time getting into his rhythm on offense, and sometimes appears frustrated on the defensive end as a result. The overweight Baron Davis seemed to just run away from him, and at times Bayless didn’t seem too enthused to give chase. He was a whole new player in the second half on both ends, but particularly on offense. He attacked the hole hard, took contact, and knocked down his shots. We need to see more of the second half Bayless if anyone is going to be convinced that Marcus Thornton is expendable. He wound up leading the team with 9 assists on the night.
Speaking of Marcus (and the saddest part of the evening), he didn’t play, even in garbage time, and appeared somewhat distraught while on the bench. You know he doesn’t want to sit, and one can only hope that he will take this DNP as motivation to improve on the defensive end.
Jason Smith came back down to Earth, committing dumb fouls away from the ball, missing easy rebounds, and at one point even creating a shot off the dribble (it didn’t work). He’s at his best offensively on catch and shoot jumpers, and that’s it. Sure is a pretty jumper, though. 6 points on 7 shots, to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Does he remind anyone else of a Darius Songaila/Ryan Bowen hybrid?
Okafor remained on his own planet. 12 points on 5 shots, along with 7 boards and 3 blocks in only 32 minutes. His defense was great, yet again, but the offense is just absurd. He’s shooting nearly 75% on the year. This is the guy Jeff Bower thought he was getting last year.
Chris Paul played a lot like this guy named Chris Paul. He’s pretty good. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? 13 points, 8 assists, 3 steals, and one turnover. He only played 25 minutes. So nice to say that.
David West was pretty bad, but nobody noticed. Oddly enough, his defense was by by far the better part of his game tonight.
Air Hugo and Air Hugo junior are my favorite of the many Hugo’s.
Post Game Notes
- If the Timberwolves can beat the Lakers tonight, or the Nuggets beat LA on Thursday, the Hornets will be the last undefeated team in the NBA for the first time ever. EVER!
- All seven opponents have been help under 100 points this year.
- Monty Williams has won his first 7 games as an NBA coach, becoming only the fifth head coach in history to achieve such a feat.
- With one more win, he will tie Larry Brown for the most victories to at the start of a year for a head coach.
- The Hornets bench had 30 fourth quarter points.
- The Hornets assisted on 29 of their 39 field goals
- After falling behind 2-0, the Hornets would never trail again.
On the bench’s solid play- “I shouldn’t have to put Chris back in the game to save the day all the time.”
“The bench, on a good team, can win five to ten games a year”
On Ariza- “I thought Trevor was big tonight, being able to rebound in the position. He knows he had a lot of mishaps on defense tonight.”
“The way Trevor is playing, has been efficient pretty much this whole season. He and Marco are defending a lot better than people five them credit and it’s helping our team a whole lot.”
On Willie Green- “Even when he’s not making shots, you know he’s going to try to do the right thin on defense”
On his team- “We talked about respecting every team in this league. We aren’t going to play LA’s record or play the fact that they don’t have all of their guys.”
“When you see us coming to an arena, you know what you are going to get.”
“No matter who we play, it can’t affect the we play”
On Q-Pon- “I’ve told him to just go out there and be solid. Don’t try to hit a home run, just be solid.”
“When I look in Quincy’s eyes, I don’t see any fear.”
Rasual Butler Quotes
On the difference in the game- “Turnovers. they’re a good defensive team. Chris and David West are out there communication and letting guys know what’s going on. We had 25 turnovers, when it was 65-60 we turned the ball over a few times and then the game got out of hand.”
On the loss of Chris Kaman (injured in the first half)- “Kaman demands a lot of attention. We get shots off of him because of the respect he gets from other teams so that defeinitely had an impact of the game.
I had planned to talk to Marcus Thornton about his defense and rebounding, but this doesn’t seem to be the most appropriate time.