The Hornets beat the Clippers

Published: April 16, 2008

For the first time in the 20-year history of the franchise, the Hornets are division champions. Yay and hooray and other such words of jubilation. 

It wasn't looking good for the first half tonight though against the visiting Los Angeles Clippers. Our Hornets came out with that all-too-familiar lack of intensity, and trailed 49-51 at the halfway mark. But Byron Scott must have given his troops some kind of Braveheart meets Any Given Sunday-type inspirational speech during the break, because they came out breathing fire in the third quarter and balled as if the Playoffs were just a few days away. We got some impressive stops on the defensive end, and the offense took care of itself.

Boom! Division champs.

Tyson Chandler celebrates the Hornets first division championship

Notes from section 118…

  • Final score was 114-92. Linkage: recap | box score | standings
  • The Hornets' defensive intensity turned the game around in the third quarter. Right out of the gate you could see the difference. It wasn't like our guys were playing much smarter defense than they had in the first half or anything; they just played with more passion, effort and focus, and it made a world of difference. We trapped harder on the Clippers' high pick and rolls, and Chris Paul started D'ing up Brevin Knight in the backcourt, just to raise the pressure a little bit.
  • Morris Peterson was probably the single biggest asset to our defense though. He really brought it in the third quarter by staying active and getting some blocks, steals and rebounds. The rest of the team followed his lead.
  • David West was on fire tonight. He shot 12-of-17 from the field for 32 points. He was scorching in the first quarter, when he scored our first 14 points and finished the period with 20 on 7-of-8 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. The Clippers started throwing double teams at him later in the game, but West was passing really well out of those, meaning some nice ball movement and open shots for other guys.
  • I really liked how we handled the mismatches on West. Sometimes we'd run a pick and roll and West would get Smush Parker or someone on his back down low. Realizing this, the Clippers would send an immediate double team when we fed the post, but then retreat when West passed the ball back out. Showing good patience and smarts, we'd then swing the ball and get it back into West, and the double team was rarely there the second time. That usually meant an easy two.
  • Chris Paul's MVPness was back in full effect. Well, almost. He struggled shooting again in the first half, missing a wide open layup early and entering halftime with just 4 points. But he was a different fish after the break, coming out much more aggressively and getting himself to any spot he damn well pleased on the offensive end. He started splitting double teams with ease, taking and making shots in the lane, and finding teammates who didn't even know they were open. CP took a total of eight shots in the second half tonight, and missed none of them. Hopefully he's regained that stroke that seemed to have deserted him
    of late. He finished the game with 22 points, 12 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 turnovers. When he came out for good with 5:01 left, he got a standing ovation and the expected MVP chants.
  • I'll give Byron some praise tonight. We built a big lead and he got the starters out of there nice and early (something he doesn't always do). Coach obviously lit a fire under our guys at halftime, too, so kudos for that.

    I'm not sure why he didn't play Bonzi Wells tonight (apparently Donatello was healthy and available to play), but I'm sure we'll find out why soon enough.

  • Nice job by the second unit tonight, particularly on defense. They even maintained the intensity when the game had been decided, and built the lead up to 30 points before a late rush by the Clips. L.A. threw a lot of zone at us tonight though, and our reserves had trouble scoring against that. If only Rasual Butler could shoot like he's supposed to, maybe he could get some minutes and help bust that defense.
  • Mike James played 22 minutes tonight, his most PT in a single game since joining the team. Byron had him paired with CP in the backcourt for some stretches, which is a role usually reserved for Jannero Pargo. James was decent offensively (8 points, 3-of-8 shooting), but was a bit of a liability on the defensive end. Seemed guys like Quinton Ross were just shooting over the top of him. Still, some nice hustle moments from James tonight. He didn't suck.
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love that Al Thornton kid. The rookie was easily the best player the Clippers had on the floor tonight. He scored 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting, getting his baskets in just about every way imaginable. Dude is wicked strong, too. He muscled his way to three three-point plays, including a couple where David West was dragging out of him like he was kite surfing.

    It's impossible not to wonder about Thornton as a Hornet, since he was picked just behind Julian Wright in the draft. From what I've seen of Thornton this season, I think he'd be helping us a lot more right now than Julian is, but JuJu could easily develop into a better player.

  • Speaking of Julian, he had himself a damn fine game tonight, too. He had a perfect shooting night, dropping all three field goals (including a triple) and all seven free throws for 14 points. Defensively, he was solid as usual, refusing to give up much to Corey Maggette.
  • Peja Stojakovic has had better games. 2-of-14 from the field for 7 points. Ouch. He had his usual looks tonight, but they wouldn't go down. Thornton was guarding him for a good stretch but I'm not sure how much of Peja's struggles could be attributed to the rookie's defense.
  • Solid game by Tyson. 11 points, 11 rebounds. We went to him in the post a few times when he was in with the reserves early in the second quarter. He was going against rookie pivot Nick Fazekas, with mixed results. He did drop a nice lefty hook on his first post up though. More of that please.
  • Obscure celebrity shown on the big screen during the game: Mykelti Williamson, better known as Bubba from Forrest Gump.
  • Hilton Armstrong delivered a fine performance tonight when he wasn't trying to square up and shoot jump shots. He had something like 4 points and 5 rebounds in about five minutes of action in the first half, but then had to leave the game when he busted his hand on the rim trying to dunk home a rebound. Thankfully he came back later and didn't seemed bothered.

    (As an aside, it kinda sucks how folks in the Arena don't get updated on the status of an injured player, while people watching at home get the scoop from the TV announcers.)

  • Play of the game: Two minutes deep in the fourth quarter, Hornets lead it by 13. Chris Paul fires a bullet down the left side of the lane, but the thread is too fat for the needle and the Clippers get hands to it before David West can. Nick Fazekas ends up with the rock, but West mans up to him right away, forcing the rookie to shit a brick and step out over the baseline. Hornets get it right back. Inbound, swing, and Julian Wright has it at the top of the key. A high pick gets him past his man, and he's faced with that same Fazekas dude who's about to get punked a million times worse than he did fifteen seconds ago. JuJu rises and rams home an emphatic two-handed tomahawk. Fazekas wonders why he tried to hang with the giraffe calf as he takes rebounding position for the and one.
  • At halftime tonight, they showed the winning CP3 for MVP video, which was of course created by those funky people over at Hornets Hype. The vid was very well received by the crowd, probably because it's awesome and fantastic. Congrats to ticktock6 and mW, who got to meet Chris Paul pregame and sit right behind the Hornets bench. I better see some pictures on that blog!
  • With Chris Andersen likely to be left off the Hornets' Playoff roster, tonight was his last chance to play in front of the home crowd for the first time since his reinstatement. He was on the inactive list, though, so no chance. Maybe next year, Birdman. Keep working.
  • From the AP recap

    The crowd of 17,388 was the Hornets' 12th sellout in their last 17 home games. Their average home attendance since Dec. 1 is 14,738. Under their current lease that was amended in January, they have to average 14,735 through the end of next season to prevent an opt-out clause from going into effect.

    Nice job, New Orleans.

  • Dan Dickau checked in to the game for the Clippers with 5:43 left in the game tonight. Strange to think he was our starting point guard before Chris Paul was drafted. How the times have changed.
  • Game recaps from other blogs, as I find them: At the Hive | Hornets Hype | Blog of New Orleans 

It was a nice win in the end tonight, but I'm still a little worried about the Hornets heading into the Playoffs. We haven't seen this team but together four consecutive quarters of intense basketball in quite a while, and that won't cut it on the big stage. Hopefully our guys can step it up.

Moving on, and the Hornets will play the Mavs in Dallas tomorrow to round out the regular season. Winning won't help us get the number one seed, since the Lakers are leading the Kings by six billion in the fourth quarter as I type this. However, our final game might give us some say in who we play in the first round of the Playoffs. The Denver Nuggets currently trail the Mavs by just a single game in the standings, and they also own the tiebreaker against the Mavs. So, if the Nuggets beat the Grizzlies in Denver tomorrow (which I assume they will), and we beat the Mavs, then it's Hornets-Nuggets in the first round. However, a Nuggets loss and/or a Hornets loss tomorrow, would mean Hornets-Mavs in the first round.

I think the Hornets can beat either of those teams in a seven-game series. All we need to do is play all four quarters, and not just the last two.

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