After the worst loss of the season in Utah, the New Orleans Hornets responded with one of the bigger wins of the season. Today Portland came out firing on all cylinders hitting any and every look. On the other end however the Hornets kept plugging away making sure the lead never got out of hand with Chris Paul and his sharp-shooters making tough shots.
It was the third quarter that proved crucial as Willie Green was agressive acting as the scoring punch off the bench. Add in Jason Smith’s hustle, rebounding and overall quality play and the Hornets lead was out to 13 at one point.
As time went by in the fourth quarter it never seemed like the Blazers would ever make a run as Paul controlled the tempo and the defensive intent. Portland would try and try but kept missing crucial shots. It’s a fascinating turnaround for the Hornets as only two days ago they were getting beat-up in Utah.
I think this team showed a lot of character tonight. I was as disappointed as the next that they didn’t show up on Wednesday, but sometimes that’s just how things turn out. Let’s take a look as some of the basketball skills that were…
- I know I usually start of with individual performances, but I think I might go with a team based dot-point first. After letting up 33 in the first quarter the Hornets held the Blazers to the following quarter totals, 15, 17 and 13 (that’s right they only scored 30 in the entire second half). This defense played out of their minds in the first 10 games then came back down to earth against Utah. I think the true measure of this defensive play lies somewhere in the middle, but it’s none the less refreshing to watch the Hornets play some D.
- Willie Green played out of his mind tonight. He still frustrates me when he completely ignores team-mates but when his jumper is falling I can’t really argue. His defense on Roy was solid as well but it’s the way he came out in the second quarter that really changed the game. Willie finished with 19 points on 11 shots, shot 2-4 from three and had a lone steal.
- A plus-minus of 24 (+). This would be Christopher Emmanuel Paul. He really played well tonight controlling both ends of the floor. It’s a real pleasure to not only watch, but listen to him play. If anything if you close your eyes and ignore the commentators all you hear is Paul barking non stop. Chris did have a bit to many turnovers but his 16 points on 6 shots mostly negates that. He also had 13 assists, 6 rebounds and 2 steals, good god he’s amazing.
- Tell me the times that Trevor Ariza scores 18 points and we lose, go on tell me because tonight he played the game we demand from him every night. His shooting touch appeared decent but it was his agressivness to get to the free-throw line that made his game that much better. He was active on the boards (7 rebounds) and his effort was twenty times better than in the Utah game. Sure it’s only November but I get really discouraged by Trevor when he plays like his Jazz performance and encouraged in his Blazers one.
- It seems odd that last game we we only had one positive and today’s we have many and it’s primarily due to the role players stepping up. Another one of those was Marco Belinelli who stroked the ball magnificently tongight hitting 4-5 from deep. He had 14 points on 8 shots and played the role we all need him to.
- Jason Smith’s hustle and continued excellence amazes me beyond reason. He is an extremly active big-man and is a bit more athletic than we give him credit for. When he’s getting those scrap plays it turns bad possessions into excellent ones.
- David West‘s night was quiet and that was mainly due to the outstanding play from the role players. He finished up with 14 points on 9 shots and turned it on when needed.
- While we held Portland to just 78 points (which I think is a season low…) Emeka Okafor is continually costing us points which we should have. After an outstanding first 10 games Mekatron has seemed to lack confidence that is reflected in his free throw perfromances of late (he was 2-8 tonight). His ability to work in the paint has never been great, but I think he needs a bit of a boost. Okafor is really the key to success for New Orleans and I’ll have a post on how important he is to our continued and future success.
- I can see why the coaching staff is holding out on Marcus Thornton. The second year player never seemed “switched on” defensively mixing up rotations, getting crossed over with ease. There was a number of times where there would be an off-ball screen and he was expected to switch and he did not. It’s sad because you know the potential is there to blow up on the offensive side of the ball, it’s just he seems a bit out of wack there too.
- Patrick Mills received no time tonight, I am not happy about this. On a team that is suffering through a slew of injuries it seems amazing that Patty hasn’t received any consistent mintues. It seems that every other position is suffereing through injuries but the point-guard spot remains healthy…if only he could grow 6 inches in the next 2 nights…
- According to the Portland commentators Chris Paul is actually Steve Nash and Darren Collison averaged 24 points when Paul was out. A number of times too the other commentator would mumble something and you couldn’t quite understand if he was joking or was just that incompentent a commentator.
- A big crowd in the Rose Garden. I always like to see small-market towns fill out to the bleachers nice to watch.
Next up is San Antonio at home, a big game for the Hornets. The Spurs lost a heart-breaker to Dallas and you can bet your bottom dollar they will seek revenge on New Orleans.
Final Word: Toughness