The Hornets beat the Heat

Playoffs, baby!

Lots of storylines from tonight’s game in Miami. It was ugly as sin through most of the first three quarters, with constant turnovers, fumbles and bricked jumpers by both teams. Q4 saw Miami seize control while Chris Paul did all one man could possibly do to keep us in it. Then there we were unable to guard the pick and roll and facing a 4-point deficit with 18 seconds left. Byron burned our last timeout. It didn’t look good. I was already writing the postmortem in my head.

But then CP gets the quick two and Dwyane Wade bricks a free throw. Ten seconds left, down three, length of the floor to go. Paul rushed it up, tried to free himself before tossing it to Rasual Butler. Yeah, same Rasual Butler who had missed 6 of his 8 shot attempts. Before he could even think about shooting, he fumbles the catch and has to chase the ball down at the sideline. I could foresee a forehead slap in my not-too-distant future. But somehow Rasual was able to gather the rock, take one dribble and fire up a prayer between James Jones and Michael Beasley. And somehow, that prayer was answered.

UPDATE: Video…

Overtime, and David West would do the rest. After struggling through a horriffic 4-of-18 shooting performance in regulation, West would sink all four of his attempts in the fifth frame. Compliment that with two costly turnovers by Wade down the stretch, and this one belonged to the Hornets.

93-87 the final score. Let’s get to some bullets…

  • Let’s talk more about David West first. I believe he missed 13 shots in a row before knocking down his final five. (Interesting to note that he only missed one shot after he tweaked his ankle late in the fourth quarter. He seems to play better on one leg, no?) He even missed two of his six free throw attempts, which doesn’t sound all that amazing until you remember that he’s the eighth-best free throw shooter in the NBA this season.

    The Heat doubled West pretty much every time down low, but most of his misses came from wide open 17-footers that he usually feasts on. He also had a rough night defensively, especially when he switched on to Beasley in the fourth and had to help guard Wade on the pick and roll. That was a nightmare for West and his slow feet, and it almost cost us the game with Wade easily getting to the rim for scores or kicks to an open James Jones. West definitely made amends though with his strong finish. He schooled Beasley in OT, dropping some sweet post moves on the rookie and banging home a couple of contested jumpers. Can’t keep a good man down.

  • Despite the low scoring, I didn’t think either team played particularly great defense in this one. I’ll give credit to Miami for staying home on Peja and not giving West much inside, but our guys missed a bunch of open jumpers and often got sloppy with the passing/catching. The Heat were even worse with their 17 turnovers (6 of them by Wade), and they also missed plenty of open looks, especially Mario Chalmers (1-of-10 FGs). But yeah, the Hornets deserve some credit too, mostly for having multiple defenders in the lane to meet Wade and for keeping their hands active for swipes and deflections. Overall though, the low scoring was down to both teams sucking offensively.
  • Chris Paul: 26 points, 9 assists, 9 rebounds and 6 steals. He also suffered through a bad shooting night (11-of-26 FGs), but for long stretches he seemed to be the only weapon we had out there, and almost single-handedly kept the Hornets afloat through the second half. It looked like it would be another one of those nights where he just didn’t have enough help to get it done, but his teammates stepped up at just the right time.
  • Peja scored 24 points, but they didn’t come easy. He shot just 7-of-18 from the field, and I’d estimate only about five of those attempts were clean looks at the basket. Everything else seemed to be a late-in-the-shot-clock heave with a defender in his face. The few times he did run off a solid screen or the defense left him alone to help in the lane, he was able to capitalize. Just a pity he didn’t get more of those opportunities.
  • Very disappointing performances by Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong. Beasley was a tough match-up for JuJu in the fourth, and I can’t really blame him for getting burned there, but he gave us nothing else to make up for it. I had it with him when he drew Jamaal Magloire on a mismatch early in Q4 and took a few indecisive dribbled before tossing it back to Paul. Bottom line: if you’re not a shooting threat and you can’t beat Jamaal Magloire off the dribble, well then you’re giving us nothing offensively. As for Hilton, he played 29 minutes, giving us 4 points, 1 rebound and 5 fouls. Enough said. Sean Marks gave us much better minutes at the pivot, rolling well to the basket, challenging Wade consistently, and actually grabbing some boards.
  • By the way, nice game by Magloire tonight, but he bugged the hell out of me. All shoves and elbows.

Alright, that’s all I’ve got for this one. That game fried my brain. I’d settled into the ugliness and suckage of the middle quarters, only to be jolted by that crazy finish. Plus, the Spurs, Blazers and Rockets all won tonight, too, so the standings don’t look all that different.

Well, execept for that little x alongside New Orleans.

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