The Hornets beat the Mavericks

Published: March 23, 2010

The Hornets started the game with Paul on the floor, took and missed a slew of very long jumpshots, and watched as the Mavericks drilled every jumper they took.  At the 10:00 mark of the 2nd quarter, with the Mavs up 16,  I had in my notes “Caron Butler finally misses a long two.” To that point the Mavs had hit 11 of 13 jumpers longer than 15 feet, with only a quartet of closer shots mixed in.  It was an impressive barrage that left me trying to convince myself that the shots had to stop falling at some point.  And they did.

Triggered by an energetic defense that took full advantage of the fact that the Hornets were actually more athletic than their opponent,(Yeah, that’s rare) the Hornets came storming back in the second, forcing turnovers and getting easy buckets in a balanced attack that saw West, Peterson, Thornton and Collison all contribute.

Let’s start, however, with the man of the hour.

Chris Paul

Paul returned tonight, and it seemed you could see him shedding rust every time he made a move on the floor.  The team opened ugly behind him, and the offense stagnated until Collison came in, but in the second half, he played progressively better and better, knocking down the open three and generally contributing without pressing.  His defense on Jason Terry in the fourth was remarkable, as he chased the wily veteran through waves of screens, and with the Hornets up big, he stepped in after a quartet of strange Hornets turnovers and managed the game until it was out of reach and he could take a seat.  For the game, he played 21 minutes, had 11 points on 9 shots, 3 assists, 1 steal and a couple turnovers.

David West

Having Collison and Paul available for the game apparently inspired fluffy, as he went for a career high 10 assists, oustripping both point guards in assists as he found cutters, swung the ball to the open corner shooter from the top of the key, drove and dumped the ball off to Okafor, and generally played intelligent basketball all game long.  I would have been happy just with that, but West also defended Dirk all game long, something he’s proven to be effective at in the past.  Tonight was no exception as he helped keep the big German to only 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 turnovers.  In fact, for parts of the game, I was wondering if West was trying to have Dirk’s baby he was riding him so hard.  Oh, and his touchdown outlet pass to Thornton to end the half was a thing of beauty:  Perfectly placed and just outside Jason Terry’s reach.

West finished with 25 points on 17 shots, 6 rebounds, 10 assists, 2 steals and a lone turnover.  Strong stuff.

Morris Peterson

I can’t say enough about Morris Peterson tonight.  He got the nod as the starting small forward – a position that has suited his slower footspeed for a couple years – and proceeded to turn in his fifth strong performance in six games.  He was running the floor, drilling his open looks, and twice dove after loose balls, earning new posessions for the Hornets.  I’m not entirely sure what has turned back the clock for him the past couple weeks, but I’m beginning to suspect some dark gris-gris is involved.  Peterson finished with a season high 20 points on 11 shots, 5 rebounds, 1 assists, 2 steals, and probably a few unpleasant floor burns.

Marcus Thornton

Thornton opened the game with a brutally bad trio of shots, but I think the fact they didn’t go in just made him angry.  For the rest of the game, he took out his frustration, unleashing his usual brand of shots from near and far, amazing finishes at the rim, and pure, raw, aggression.  He was only credited with a single offensive rebound, but I can remember two vital rebounds he had – one finishing a Collison miss on a fast break, and once at the very end, when the Mavericks were trying to get back into the game by serving up a somewhat troublesome zone defense.  Thornton simply slipped into the paint, got perfect position for the rebound and put it back while all the Mavericks turned and watched him do it.  The rook finished with a game-high 28 points on 22 shots, mixing in 4 rebounds and an assist for good measure.

Other Observations:

  • The Hornets went with a three-guard lineup for only a few minutes during the game, but the most interesting wrinkle in it wasn’t what was expected.  Instead of generating a lot of open looks off a series of drives and kicks – the Hornets would let West create, then the ball would fly out, skip around the edge, sometimes reverse, and eventually find one of the three guards for an open shot.  All three of those guys can shoot, so it was pretty deadly.
  • Nothing makes me smile like Jason Kidd putting the ball on the floor in the half-court.  It’s rare when that results in something good for the Mavs.
  • When the Hornets had any combination of West, Songaila, Posey, Thornton, Collison and Peterson on the floor, the ball movement was gorgeous.  The ball was skipping around the perimeter, and going inside out all game long.  33 assists for 45 field goals actually sounds right.
  • The Mavericks started out the game by having Caron Butler punish Marcus Thornton.  Marcus struggled mightily until the Hornets started having West and Collison alternate as double-teamers, and the Mavs never really went back to it.
  • Collison played a nice, solid game, particularly on the defensive end.  He also made poor JJ Barea’s life a living hell, and contained fellow amazing rookie Roddy Beaubois, who had been tearing up opposing teams recently.
  • Songaila had several of these games early in the season – ones where he hit all four or five of his shots.  Tonight his long jumper was back after an extended sabbatical, and to celebrate, Songaila grabbed five rebounds, which is four more than he typically grabs in a game.

Next game is Wednesday as Cleveland comes calling.  Have a good night.

UPDATE: Game highlights and post-game words from CP3…

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