Hornets get Defensive, take care of Timberwolves

Published: February 25, 2011

The Timberwolves came out red hot against the Hornets, drilling 6 of their first 7 shots, as they threatened to sweep the season series with the Bees. With the score 16-11, Monty Williams looked furious as he called a timeout and let the starters have it. The result? Only 10 more points in the final 8 minutes of the quarter, and totals of 17, 18, and 20 in the remaining three quarters as the Hornets went on to an impressive 95-81 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Some might laugh when they read that a victory over a 13-win team is impressive, but the Hornets had to overcome several potential pitfalls in this game. First and foremost, West was out due to a death in the family. Secondly, Carl Landry hadn’t gotten time to learn any offensive sets before he took the court, and lastly, Okafor was not in peak condition in his first game back from injury. Despite all of that, the Hornets simply took over the game on the defensive end, as they limited Minnesota’s trips to the line and their three point field goals.

As I noted coming into this game, the T’Wolves were averaging 25 free throws a game against the Hornets (making 22.5 of them) and they also averaged 11 made three’s per game. That is 55.5 points from those two areas. Tonight? 12-14 from the line and 5 made threes. 27 points. That is nearly a 30 point swing. Was Monty reading my game preview?

As for individual performances, let’s go to the Stars of the Game!

Star #3Wesley Johnson

I know they got blown out, but this guy just loves playing the Hornets at Minnesota. 22 points tonight, just two behind his career high of 24 against… that’s right, the Hornets! Guy has played 57 games, and his two best were against us. Of course.

Star #2- Chris Paul

8 assists and 1 turnover. Now that is more like it. No, Chris didn’t dazzle us with any Sportscenter top 10 plays or have an amazing stat line, but he controlled the game and led us to victory. 6 rebounds to go with his 17 points, and a lot of those rebounds were in the middle of some pretty big traffic down low. He would have easily had double digit assists if his bigs and Ariza actually dunked the ball when they got it from him at the rim. Overall, he lead the team in an efficient manner and he gets my 2nd star.

#1 Star- Emeka Okafor

First game back and I am giving you the big star- how does that feel? I am not exaggerating when I say this; without Emeka, the Wolves easily score 100+ tonight. Easily. Yes he had three blocks, but beyond that, he just changed so much about that game and he effected everything Minnesota wanted to do on that end of the court. 3 blocks and 2 steals, while only picking up 1 foul is quite impressive. To put it in perspective, there is only one guy in the league who averages more blocks than fouls per game, and Mek had a 3:1 ratio tonight.

He only played 25 minutes, but watch the game again and tell me that he didn’t dominate the lane.

Other Notes and Observations:

– Be prepared, it’s coming. There will be posters who did not watch the game, who will look at the box scores and say, “Landry was just 1-5 and Thornton scored 14 points, including 3 threes!” Ignore them. Those are the same people saying Bayless is better than Jack because he went off for 32 in Toronto one night. In nearly the same number of minutes, Thornton was -14 and Landry was +9.

But this isn’t about Thornton vs. Landry. Carl is on the team now and Marcus aint walking through that door, so this will be the last time I mention him in comparison to Landry. Carl Landry did so many little things that won’t show up in the box score, but they will make Monty smile when he watches the tape on the flight back tonight. Pushing Love around, aggressively attacking the ball handler on pick and rolls, and setting solid screens.

The guy doesn’t know sets yet and he will just be playing on raw instinct for the next week or so, but make no mistake, this guy is a huge upgrade.

– Q-Pon gave 18 really solid minutes. I would love if he could keep getting minutes before the rotation really gets tightened, and then he can be an everyday rotation guy next year.

– Gray was solid again. Missed one point blank layup and gave the Gray “What foul?” face, but other than that, solid.

– Willie Green fell in love with the three early because Minny came out in zone and ended up shooting 8 of them, hitting just 2. Best play of the game was a charge he took on a Minnesota fast break. He and Belly combined for 17 pints in 36 minutes at the two guard spot. I’ll take that.

– Jarret Jack had 13 points and 4 steals. Look at the elite point guards in the league and then look at their backups. Jack is a luxury for the Hornets and he has been judged too harshly. He is a top 5 backup PG, which means he is elite at his position. He gets condemned far too often for what he provides.

– Hornets will be at full strength for Sunday’s game against Houston at home, as West is expected back. After that they start their 5 game road trip.

– Caption winner: DAVEY with “Let’s have Jason Smith cover #22” . Laughed 4-5 times.

Question winner: Ronald, who correctly pointed out that the record breaking steal was against the Spurs.


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