Hornets get back on winning track, take down the Nets

Published: December 22, 2010

The Hornets started out the game red hot, shooting over 60 percent in the first half. Despite that offensive effort, however, New Orleans only led by 4 points with four seconds left in the first half. Off an inbounds play the Hornets set up a three-pointer for West, who drilled it at the buzzer and sent the Hornets into the locker room with all the momentum. They came out like gangbusters in the third, winning the quarter 26-13 and never looked back, winning the contest 105-91.

CP3 and West were both sensational in this game, but Monty Williams is used to that. He has called out for a third guy to join them so this team could return to the elite status it appeared to be enjoying earlier in the year. Not one, not two, but three guys answered the bell tonight as Marco Belinelli, Emeka Okafor, and the “Banner Man” himself- Marcus Thornton all had terrific games. Put it this way, if those guys all play like that, Ariza can keep putting up these 3-11 type efforts and it won’t matter.

Belinelli was 6-8 and finished with 14 points while Marcus Thornton provided a spark off the bench, going 7-10 (and 4 for 5 from deep!) as he finished with 18 points. The star of the game, however, was Emeka Okafor. Not only did he score 21 points while pulling down 10 boards, but he played fantastic one-on-one defense on Lopez, while also providing some great weak side support for his teammates. The box score will say he only blocked one shot, but he changed several others and his position pushed guys out of their comfort zones and forced them to take shots they didn’t want to take.

On the Nets side, Devin Harris did a good job attacking the rim, as he finished with 21 points and 8 assists. Brooke Lopez did score 16 points, but it took him 16 shots to do so, and he only grabbed 4 rebounds, mostly because of Okafor’s positioning.

The Hornets moved to 17-12 overall on the season, including a rather impressive 12-3 at home and they will have the next three days off to enjoy with their families before welcoming the Hawks in on Sunday.

Other Notes and Observations:

– Quite possibly the best first quarter I have seen Chris Paul play in a month. Of the Hornets first 5 buckets, he assisted on 4 of them. He also attacked the rim early and often and set Kris Humphries up on a sick crossover. I know CP3 and Reggie Bush are good friends, and I am sure he did that just for his boy. Paul finished the game with 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting and a 14:1 assist to turnover ratio. Typical CP3.

– The box score will say Jarrett Jack was 2 for 6 and scored 7 points, but this game told me a lot more than that. He just seems so much more confident and he is starting to know where his teammates will be. Remember those long cross court passes and poor decisions? They are gone for the most part and I really think that by February he will be 100% adjusted to this team and come playoff time we will have the best PG duo in the league, no question.

– Ariza hit two more shots than he did Monday, but he still looked awful out there on the offensive end. The lowlight of the night was a wide open alley-oop off a beautifully designed play that he flubbed. Caught the pass from CP3 and couldn’t decide whether to lay it in off the glass or dunk it- so he did neither and just missed it. His body language is just horrible as well, as he doesn’t even seem to want the ball when it is being whipped around in the half court. It seems to me that Ariza is what I have heard called a “confidence player” and he just doesn’t have any of it right now.

– Stephen Graham averages less than 3 PPG. He comes out in the first quarter and scores seven. This drives me crazy, anyone else? Look, I don’t mind getting beat by the other teams’ best guys, but I just lose it when scrubs have the games of their lives against us. Next up- Atlanta. Anybody willing to bet Al Horford misses the game due to some Christmas food poisoning and Josh Powell erupts for 20 and 10 against us?

– Attendance for tonight: 15,423. I like it, especially for a Wednesday night against a bad team. Save Our Hornets is doing their part, as is the city and the fans. Just a couple more games to go in order to reach the benchmark. I beelieve!

– My take on the uber-talented rook Derrick Favors? Glad you asked. The guy will be a very good player in the league for years to come, but he will never be elite because he lacks the quick jump and second jump abilities that big men who rely on athleticism must have to be the elite of the elite. Long power forwards don’t necessarily need that, nor do the Tim Duncan’s of the world, but Favors is not the biggest power forward and he will never have a Tim Duncan like basketball IQ. He is young Amare without the elite hops.

I am not trashing the guy, I am just saying his ceiling is not limitless (i.e. He is no Blake Griffin). Maybe one or two All-Star appearances, but likely not. Just a good power forward in the mold of an Antonio McDyess or Shereef Abdur-Rahim production wise. Long story short, I would include him for Melo if I am NJ and Melo will sign the extension.


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