New Orleans Hornets Defeat The Suns Behind Willie “Money” Green

Published: April 8, 2011

The New OrleansHornets beat the Suns 109-97 behind an automatic Willie Green and an aggressive Trevor Ariza to win their third straight game. The win is their sixth of eight since losing David West to a season ending injury, and provides even more hope that this Hornets team is still capable of a playoff run.

Again the Hornets started out slowly, falling behind 12-5, and then 19-9 in the first six minutes of the game. Their defensive rotations seemed out of whack, as Carl Landry kept getting stuck on Aaron Brooks, and the Hornets guards were regularly finding themselves on Suns big men under the basket. The result was eight of the Suns first 13 shots coming from within 3 feet. They made seven of them.

The Hornets just can’t start out playoff games that way. Better teams won’t let them battle back as easily as the Suns and Rockets have these past two games. I’m sure Monty will address the slow starts at some point, and it won’t be a minute too soon.

Landry was a big part of the problem, and Monty took him out shortly after. Okafor remained in for most of the quarter, but was brought away from the basket regularly by the Suns bigs, reducing his ability to alter shots like he normally does. As a result the Hornets allowed the Suns to shoot 62% in the quarter. The interior defense was a problem all game long, but never was it more so than early on.

Fortunately the Hornets offense was adequate early, despite a very poor first 11:30 from Chris Paul (0 points on 3 shots, 3 assists vs 2 TO, and 1 rebound). The rest of the team (minus Landry) carried the scoring load during that time. Then, in the last 30 seconds of the half, Chris Paul went 2-2 with a three point bomb that brought those in attendance to their feet and a buzzer beating jumper which had a similar effect. Those two shots gave the Hornets a 31-30 lead at the end of one, and with them, the Hornets took control of the game.

A bench unit comprised of Ariza and the bench, and then Landry and the bench, extended the lead to 47-42 by the time the rest of them came back out (5:22 remaining). After initially struggling to get buckets or stop the Suns, the Hornets found their groove and started generating points. Ariza and Willie Green, who both obviously felt good tonight, combined to score 9 points in the closing two minutes as the Hornets extended their halftime lead to 59-53 at the half.

For a good bit of the third quarter, the Hornets threatened to pull away. They led by 11 with 8:45 to go, but scored only four points in the next four minutes, as the Suns cut the lead to 4 behind Grant Hill’s offensive burst. That guy never ceases to amaze me, and his defensive effort tonight again had me wondering why he’s spending his glory days on the Suns. He’s the prime example of a veteran who could take a playoff team to the next step.

Landry gave the Hornets some offense, with a thunderous dunk followed by an offensive board and a nice layup. At the end of three, the score stood 85-79 in favor of the Hornets.

The Hornets slowly extended their lead, threatening to pull away, but it was Willie Green who would seal the deal. His three pointer after a hustle-filled offensive rebound by Carl Landry with 5:10 to go in the second half was automatic. He knew he was going to make it, and so did everyone in the place.

As the shot went up, the arena got to their feet in anticipation of the coming explosion, and when the shot dropped arm hair stood up as far as the eye could see. Goosebumps, baby, goosebumps. Hornets 107-Suns 88. The standing ovation lasted through the timeout and when the team came back on the court they were greeted with another round of applause.

And that was the game. All that remained unclear was whether or not Patrick Ewing jr. would score- He did not, even though he came in for the last minute.

Trevor Ariza

Ariza better have this game taped at home. It’s the prime example of the player that he’s supposed to be– someone who excels in transition and when attacking the basket, and can hit the open three when need be. That’s his role on offense, and when he plays it he makes the Hornets offense that much better.

It helped of course that everything he threw up inside was finding net, but that’s what happens when you stay aggressive and don’t settle for outside jumpers. That’s been the biggest knock on Trevor for a couple years now, and perhaps he started taking notice.

On defense he was great, both one and one and in the passing lanes. I’ll have whatever he had for breakfast, please. In the end Ariza contributed 21 points on 17 shots, 8 rebounds, 4 assists vs 0 turnovers, and 3 steals. His plus/minus was +15. All in all, it was a fantastic performance. He’s really playing well lately.

Did I mention that nobody except Ariza had more than 5 boards? True story. Guy was all over the place.

Willie Green

The Green was was money today, scoring 31 points on 12-16 shooting, to go along with 4 assists vs 1 steal, and 3 rebounds. He did every single little thing the Hornets needed from him, knocking down shots long range, up close and from everywhere in between. At one point he hit 12 straight, a New Orleans franchise record.

Defensively he was excellent, rarely falling for pump fakes and causing his mark to work extra hard just to even get a shot off before the clock expired. I counted no less than three times that his guy threw up a shot straight out of my last JCC game. To be clear, that’s not good.

To further emphasize how important Willie was, and how well he played, let’s take a look at his plus/minus.


When Willie finally left the game with 23 seconds to play, he reveived a standing ovation for his performance. Let me add to that- Clap. Clap. Clap.

Other Player Notes

  • Watching Jack and Paul play well together is awesome. When Paul gets stuck holding the ball at the top of the key with the shot clock running down, he actually has someone to give it to who can dribble, and then distribute or shoot. Sounds weird, but this has been a rarity in New Orleans in recent years. Defensively the duo has been excellent as well. It’s clear the connection they share off the court is creeping it’s way into the game.
  • Q-Pon, like most rookies, gets caught cheating off his man way too much. I counted three different times in the second quarter alone. I’m sure Monty will chew him out later, as he should.
  • Jason Smith and Aaron Gray gave some nice minutes in the second and fourth quarters. Mostly Smith, but as Monty said, Gray was in a tough spot. It’s an…interesting front court, but it’s been working well in limited action. Tonight we even saw Gray alertly kick it out from the post which resulted in a wide open Willie Green three pointer. He nailed it. Both of these guys will be needed in the playoffs, so it’s good to see them playing well.

Game Notes

  • During a timeout with 8:45 to go in the first quarter, the Bee-Zanies started a U-S-A chant in honor of the “wounded warriors” sitting behind their section. The game started while the chant was still going, and Marco Belinelli knocked home a jumper, despite being from Italy.
  • During another timeout with about 8:40 to go in the second, two kids raced to make a shot. One of them had a Thornton jersey on. Fortunately he lost…
  • The Bee-Zanies were chanting something about Vince Carter being old, and he reacted after making a free throw.
  • Happy Birthday to Hornets President Hugh Weber.
  • Attendance was 14,950, but everyone there was awesome, so if really did feel like more. Good job, everyone who attended.

Post-Game Notes

Quotes From Monty’s Postgame Press Conference

  • “I’m glad we were able to establish a defensive mindset as the game went on”
  • “I like the fact that he got 7 defensive rebounds.” – On Ariza
  • “I’m just glad we got the win, especially at home.”
  • “He looks the way he did in LA” – on Ariza
  • “Jason Gave us great energy”
  • “Aaron was in a tough spot tonight because they went small”
  • “We’re still trying to figure it out”- on the rotation going into the playoffs
  • Backup SF, backup PF are the spots where they are unsure. It appears that Q-Pon might need to see time — Paraphrased
  • “When he gets going like that, not many people can calm him down” – On Willie
  • “Even as a rookie, he played the same way”- On Willie
  • “He plays the game the right way from a toughness standpoint. He guards 2’s, 3’s and when a guy is giving his body like that on the defensive end you kind of let him go on offense.” – On Willie
  • “We’ll have to get him to do an interview next time”- As some guy answers his phone during the press conference and then starts talking. So odd…

Listen here! Note- There is a delay before Monty starts talking.



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