The game probably shouldn’t have even gone to over-time, but sometimes that’s the way the NBA goes. The Hornets defense in today’s game was outstanding. They held a Magic team that was on fire, made 12 three pointers and still held them to under 90 points (in 5 periods). Sure Dwight Howard got “his” but the Hornets did a fantastic job of holding down all (or most ) of the other players.
The teams went at it close for most of the first four quarters and New Orleans did a woeful job of executing down the stretch to give the Magic life. We need to remember that Orlando was just two Dwight Howard free-throws away from winning the game so it was a case of who had the gusto down the stretch.
Chris Paul: B+
While the box score shows Chris Paul didn’t have one of his better games it’s important to understand how crucial his leadership is to this team and its future. He set up his team-mates constantly and worked over Jameer Nelson humiliating him on several occasions. 12 points on 12 shots, 13 assists on 1 turnover, 5 rebounds and a steal. Work your magic CP.
Marcus Thornton: A
Since Marco Belinelli went down with an apparent sprain Marcus Thornton was the man who stepped in. It appears that Marco is fine but it was a cautious move to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid. As for ‘Buckets’ it was one hell of a game. His 22 points off the bench was key to the Hornets winning this ballgame. For all the talk of how this bench sucks it was truly wonderful to watch someone come in and produce, offensively. For all this teams accomplishments on the defensive end their offense stinks (amazing what a flip a year does). Marcus hit a clutch, big time jumper over J.J. Redick late in overtime as well as a couple of bigtime free-throws. Sometimes I just don’t understand why we can’t be more than the 2nd worst offensive team in the league…
Trevor Ariza: A
Get the game tape on Trevor Ariza and watch the shots he takes. There are probably only 2 maybe 3 times where Trevor takes a dumb shot (if that). Tonight was where T.A. knew exactly what his game was about and executed like it was the end of a financial year. Catch and shoot three’s with set feet, check, off-ball back door cuts for layups, check, run the floor and fill the lane, check. Great efficient play resulted in 16 points on 12 shots, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 2-4 from three. When Ariza is our fourth option as opposed to our third he can play that much better.
David West: B
In tonight’s affair David West had what we would call a workman’s performance. He didn’t exactly light anything on fire but he kept plugging away making sure he was not unaccounted for on the floor. What amazes me is that in recent weeks D.W. has picked up his offensive rebounding (4 tonight) and it gives him easier shots, the team gets fresh possessions and it showcases how he and Emeka know what type of shots their team-mates are taking. Those four extra possessions are crucial. He finished with 13 points on 18 shots, 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots.
Emeka Okafor: A+
Hands down, man of the match.
Okay now that that has sunk in take a second to ponder on how valuable the pivot is to this team. Is he a fifth option? Does he mearly take up space? What is his overall role? I will vouch that Emeka Okafor is the third most important player on this team. He should be the third option on offense because the shots he takes are always around the basket. For a team that doesn’t exactly possess players that can drive at will to the rim Okafor forces opponents to check the lane and make sure they don’t get too jumpy to the outside shooters. Tonight’s game was so valuable to the victory and while Dwight Howard had his way on one end, Emeka had his on the other. He finished with 18 points on 11 shots and grabbed 14 boards, three of which were offensive.
Wild Card Grade, Willie Green: B
This would have gone to Marcus Thornton but because he’s got a starters grade we’ll give this one to Willie Green. I know he may not have had the most spectacular night but he constantly gives the bench something even on nights that are dry in terms of offensive production. Tonight Green gave a little added spark to Marcus’ ex-plo-sion.
Next up is the Houston Rockets who despite their record are playing very decent basketball. They’re a team that has the offensive firepower to negate any Hornets defensive gameplan so watch out for them. Onwards and upwards!
Final Word: Wooooweeee!