Hornets beat the Clippers

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Published: February 24, 2011

In the first game back from the All-Star break the Hornets looked sharp, they ran their plays extremely well, staggering screens all over for everyone, and put together a nice, easy 98-87 win over the Clippers. (Box Score)

Of course, part of the reason they looked so good was the fact the Clippers were missing Eric Gordon and Baron Davis, while Craig Smith and Chris Kaman had just returned from injuries of their own.  The Clippers, never defensively skilled, looked pretty lost out there, and the Hornets ran them through enough screens they got nice, open looks and converted them, shooting 52% for the game.

It really was a team effort for the Hornets, with three starters and two bench players reaching double figures, something I appreciated no end.

David West

Personally, I enjoyed the play of David West in that game more than anyone else.  Why?  Because he was dead set on making a point with Blake Griffin – perhaps he was sending a message to the newly minted All-Star that he too had played in the big game?

Now, in no way did he intimidate Griffin, but he was physical and when he could he delivered elbows, lowered his shoulder, and attacked Griffin in the post.  Griffin got frustrated early, earned a technical, and the game turned into a great battle as Griffin fought back, not backing down and cleverly drawing a pair of offensive fouls.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul continued to play without his brace, and I’m sure some of you will look at his great box score line and think he returned to form.  Not really.  I did love seeing him attack the paint more often than normal – but the Clippers left it open pretty often too.  It was also nice to see him assertive in the fourth  – but he ended up taking long jumpers, not going to the hoop.  In other words, though watching him play was fun as hell, and he looked more like Nov-Jan Chris Paul than Feb Chris Paul, I’m not yet ready to say he’s revitalized.

Other Observations:

  • Monty milked every foul he could from Gray and Smith to battle Griffin in the post – and they did a very good job.  Gray was, as usual, effective, and Smith . . . well . . . Landry is on the way.
  • Even with that, I’m probably not giving Gray enough credit.  He was active double-teaming, helping in the paint, and he neutralized Deandre Jordan for most of the game.  He only struggled when he had to guard Kaman 12 feet and out from the basket.
  • I’ve heard multiple times from insiders around the league that Craig Smith may be the strongest NBA player.  Proof:  Tonight, he rolled to the basket, Gray came charging down from the elbow, hit Smith . . . and bounced off.  Smith laid it in without giving any sign he noticed the 300+ behemoth that had just hit him.  Crazy.
  • What is with the Hornets 3-Pt defense?  For most of the season, we locked down the perimeter, but again we let a team shoot better than 45% from deep tonight – and again, like the past five games, that was significantly better than usual.  Getting tired of that.
  • I love Hubie Brown.  What’s more, I loved listening to him grunting “Nice!” every few offensive sets run by the Hornets.  He made a point to call out all the back screens and double screens being set by the Hornets to break Belinelli, Green and West free for open shots.  I also loved when he said Craig Smith had been “Out with an ankle.”  Strange dating habits that Smith has.
  • Willie and Belinelli combined for 29 points on 18 shots.  Honestly, if they can give us 65% of that nightly, we’re in good hands.
  • Jarrett Jack played well, and Monty used him next to Paul several times and tonight it worked.  If he can settle into something close to the form he had before we traded for him, Landry can keep doing just what he did in Sacramento (not even what he did in Houston), and Monty decides to play Gray as the primary backup center over Smith, the team’s 8-man rotation isn’t bad at all.
  • Cuban complained about the league and the Hornets trading for Landry.  Don’t be fooled, this has nothing to do with fiscal sanity like he’s trying to claim.  It’s entirely wrapped up in the fact the Hornets obviously just got better, and he doesn’t like that from a division rival.  I’ll point out that the Hornets submitted to the NBA – and by proxy, the owners – a budget for the season, and it was approved.  The Hornets remained within the budget with this trade.  Cuban has as much ground to complain as one of the Real Housewives do when they come off looking shallow and stupid.

Next game against the Timberwolves, let’s hope this is the start of a new streak.

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