The Hornets beat the Rockets

The Hornets were at home tonight so of course they went all Dr. Jekyll down the stretch and came away with a win over the Houston Rockets. The visitors appeared more poised and held the lead for the vast majority of the 48, but the Hornets did enough to keep within striking distance. Late in the fourth, big plays by Chris Paul, David West and James Posey made the difference.

99-95 the final score (box), and that would be a five-game winning streak at home.

Chris Paul

Nice battle between Aaron Brooks and Paul tonight. Neither guy can really contain the other. Brooks finished with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting, but CP trumped him with 28 points (9-21 FGs) and 9 assists. Chris didn’t settle much for the jumper despite coming up gimpy a few times during the game. He went right at Brooks from the start, and many of his clutch plays down the stretch came from within the paint. Not sure how he hit West so perfectly on that play to take the lead; not sure he ever so much as glanced in that direction.

Emeka Okafor

I’m loving Emeka’s work of late, and it’s nice to see him getting crunch time minutes more regularly. Tonight Emeka played all but 19 seconds of the fourth quarter, and his presence was felt as the Rockets got very little inside during the final frame. When the Hornets lost in Houston last Tuesday, Ryan noted that Okafor fouling out late was the turning point, but thankfully he was there when needed for the rematch.

Okafor would finish with 14 points (6-8 FGs) and 16 boards, the latter a season high. He showed great hands in this one, regularly making the most of risky passes and cleaning up several botched lay-ups.

Also of note was Okafor’s help defense. He’s usually pretty quick to step up and get a body in front of a smaller player driving in from the wing, and tonight was no different. Unfortunately, that second defensive rotation is rarely there for the Hornets, and so we see those quick dump offs to Okafor’s original cover for easy buckets.

The little things

As mentioned, the Rockets looked like the more poised team for most of the game. They executed pretty well, shared the ball, found the open man, all of that stuff. It seemed like it would just be a matter of time before they busted the game open. But the Hornets did enough of the little things to stop that from happening. The biggest little thing was turnovers. The Rockets had 16 tonight, while the Hornets had just 7. Free throws were also big, as the Hornets got to the line 24 times total — 16 times in the second half — and made 20 of them.

The rest of the little things were a few timely steals here and there, great bench play by Songaila, and not giving up any big runs.

A few other things of note:

  • Bobby Brown was thrown out there late in the third quarter and ended up playing 13 minutes, despite having been a DNP-CD for ten of the past twelve games. His jumper was off but I though he did a solid job otherwise. Interesting to see the Hornets run the same play for him three times in the fourth quarter, a play which saw a triple screen set to free him each time. He hit the first jumper out of that set, but then missed triples on each subsequent try.
  • Like Tuesday in Houston, the Rockets rarely doubled David West in this one, but seemed intent on making him work harder at the other end of the floor, with Luis Scola taking it at him early and putting him on the bench with two quick fouls. West forced the offense a little when he came back, missing a few tough looks. He came up big when it mattered most though.
  • Regarding that big offensive foul Posey drew late in the fourth: It looked like he was licking his lips waiting to jump out and get knocked over by Landry, as if he knew exactly what the Rockets were running and how he could exploit it.
  • Peja struggled again in this one, rarely getting a clean look. The good news was that he was moving without any limitations, showing little sign of the back problem that took him out of the Miami game on Wednesday. But then he was taken out of the game late in the third quarter and never returned, not even when the Hornets seemed to be in dire need of some outside shooting. I don’t recall seeing him on the bench in the fourth quarter either. Hopefully all is well.
  • The Rockets shot 8-of-20 from deep in this one, 3-of-8 in the second half. They shot 12-of-23 from deep on Tuesday.

The win brings the Hornets back to within one game of .500 at 15-16, with a date with the Jazz in Utah on Monday.

UPDATE: Check out Mr. Kennedy’s post-game Journal report, plus some game highlights from…

While we’re at it, here are Saturday’s top ten plays, featuring Devin Brown at the ten spot…

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