Chris Paul goes up to the line, drills a couple of free-throws and let’s out a big sigh of relief. The Hornets All-Star point guard has been in a big funk as of late and many have their heads scratching for ideas. Tonight Paul showed just why he’s still one of the best in the game making not only himself, but his team-mates better. It was the reason the Hornets won tonight, but not the only one.
There was something starkly different between the way the guys held themselves tonight, than the Knicks and Houston game. They wanted this, badly. The guys wanted to be out there and it was a true pleasure to watch them play with passion, purpose and pride.
Memphis came out swinging taking the early lead into the 1st quarter. In that opening period a terrible tragedy occurred, David West came up limping on a rebound sending him out for the remainder of the game. Then they proceeded to open up a double-digit lead on New Orleans leading to rolled eyes and moans across Louisiana. Fortunately a 14-2 run in the final two minutes helped “check” that and it was tied at the half. The Hornets then opened up to a lead making it a huge 20 point swing in their favour. However Chris Paul went down and the Grizzlies rallied back keeping the Hornets within touching. It was too tough for them to recover though as their shooting cooled down. An O.J. Mayo step back three miss and a win to New Orleans!
- Chris Paul isn’t quite “back.” It was exciting to see him finally play well, but he rolled his ankle, again, forcing him to miss some time. The thing that makes this different to the past week is there was a hunger in him tonight. He wanted the ball in his hands, he wanted to score, he was looking for his points. It led to him helping his team-mates too dishing out 14 assists on just 2 turnovers. Sometimes for CP it’s better for him to look for his shot than his pass. Here’s the stat-line: 23 points on 15 shots, 14 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
- Jarrett Jack has been on a roll as of late, and that’s an understatement. It’s been a much discussed issue of Jack’s poor play since the Hornets traded for him, but the averages seem to be evening themselves out. Jack scored 19 points on just 11 shots and hit 3 of 4 three’s. It’s a welcome sign to see the veteran finally playing up to his talent level.
- Another key bench player for the Hornets was Willie Green. I hate on him a lot, mostly due to the turnovers and god-awful shots, in the fourth quarter tonight Willie was wetting his whistle. I won’t lie to you fans, the box-score will fool you. Most of his shots in that stretch were so tough. Leaners, fadeaway and shots that touch the shot-clock, he had it all. Still, he makes me cringe whenever he touches the ball. He finished with 15 points on 11 shots and 2 rebounds.
- With David West down, Carl Landry had to play a huge role off the bench. He still looks a little bit out of sync with the team, but he worked hard for every single one of his points. I can’t wait till he gets in touch with the other guys because then he’ll show his value. He had a nice post move that was called back for the travel, but again, he looks good. 14 points on 14 shots, 10 rebounds (4 offensive), 3 steals and 1 block.
- Getting the start Marco Belinelli had something to prove tonight, and boy did he. Only playing 17 minutes the Italian scored 14 points on a staggering 7 shots. Everyone on Twitter was yelling for him to come off the bench, but Green was on. I do think though that had Willie missed some of those ridiculous shots that people would’ve been angry at Williams for not putting him back in.
- Injuries. Good Lord. With all the adversity the Hornets already faced the only thing that could make it worse was some good ole fashion injuries. The first of these was Trevor Ariza who was out with a pulled groin (INFO via topherp33) , no word on his severity. The next was David West who went down with an ankle-sprain also. This one looked bad, West didn’t even step on it, he needed help getting off the court and did not return to the game. I’m not sure how long he’ll be out for but he’s gone for at least a week. Then to top things off, Chris Paul went down with a less-severe ankle injury. He returned to the game.
- Aaron Gray had a shocker, but the refs really blow everything on him. He did grab some rebounds which was nice. Players get pushed to the side and they call a fould, Zach Randolph drops his shoulder and it’s a foul on Aaron. I just don’t get it.
- Emeka Okafor is still in a funk offensively (and on the rebounds). I hope he has a good one soon.
Next up is the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs beat the New York Knicks away from home which signals alarm bells around Hornets nation that this could be another loss. But if New Orleans shows the same hunger they did tonight then this should be a win. Still you wouldn’t be surprised to see them drop it after all after every big win this season the Hornets drop the next one.
Final Word: Relief
Vintage Chris Paul, look at his aggressiveness to score, that’s what we like to see.