Indiana 100 (15-26) | New Orleans 103 (25-13)
"I CAN'T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW!"
Those were the closing words in my notebook from the Hornets' improbable rise to victory over a hot-handed Danny Granger and company.
Granger's insane fadeaway to tie the game with 2.5 to play nearly deflated the building, but somehow, someway Paul managed the same feat before the buzzer sounded over none other than Granger himself. The ensuing roar of the arena was deafening. And I've never been more happy to be deaf.
To set the scene, I should start by noting that David West (whose bobble-headed likeness was given out to the first 8000 fans, none of whom were me) was out with back spasms. This unfortunate news for the fans was met by news that was even worse: Sean Marks would start in West's place.
Needless to say, our offense was remarkably out of sync for most of the first quarter. It also didn't help that Danny Granger lit us up from every possible spot on the floor. Seriously, I think the dude's range is anything within 40 feet of the goal.
The Hornets were able to pick things up on defense and strung together enough successful possessions that the score was within 2 at the end of one. We looked so awful for the first 6 minutes that I considered anything within 5 a victory for the Bees.
The team started to get in a rhythm and gain steam (and direction) when our perimeter shooters started to get hot, particularly Peja (who finished with a season high 26 on 5 of 9 from deep).
Then, Tyson went down. Everyone held their breath as he rose, but our near-excitement was quickly quelled by the sight of Tyson being carried by Ely and Marks. It was a painful exit. Never mind that it left our already thin front court in the hands of Armstrong, Marks, and Ely. A scraggly bunch to say the least. It got even scraggly-er when Hilton went down as well... something in the water I guess.
Long story short, everyone contributed. The loss of 3 of our big men forced us to go small, but the good news is -- in case you didn't know -- the Hornets are overloaded with wing men. No one was particularly outstanding, but everyone made contributions (except for Bowen, who didn't dress, and Brown who... well, he was Devin Brown).
Team basketball was had and loved by many today, and the Hornets came away with an insane victory that will probably etch itself into this season's top 10 Ws. And that, my friends, is how you should spend every MLK day... minus the Tyson thing, of course.
Couple of observations before I leave you:
- Early in the first, after having missed all three of his shots to that point, Sean Marks accidentally batted an easy rebound out of bounds. The crowded immediately moved from groaning to booing. Truthfully, I have always hated when fans boo their own players. It just doesn't solve any problems. Marks was missing open looks, but it wasn't as though he was mailing it in. He was giving his all. The question of whether his "all" is enough to be considered starting material in the NBA is a totally different discussion. He redeemed himself a little on the next sequence by laying down a nice dunk, but come on New Orleans... don't boo a guy who's giving his all. Save it for the Vince Carters of the world.
- Don't know if I mentioned this enough but Danny Granger is unbe-freakin-lievable at basketball. He's trying really hard to edge out Gerald Wallace for the SF slot on my all man-crush team. Yeah, I know. TMI.
- We won the second quarter tonight. We've pulled that off 10 times this year. Now, not all of those games have been wins, but to put that into perspective, our bench has only managed to outscore other teams' benches in 10 of 38 possible second quarters. Nice to see that we could hold our own without CP. After all, the second quarter should really be called "CP's 6 to 12 Minutes of Rest".
- Before the game, the jumbotron shows stat leaders for the entire league. I happened to look up while they were highlighting the free throw percentage leaders and noticed that Jose Calderon of the Toronto Raptors is leading the league at 100%. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. He's only shot 76 of them (compared to CP's 251), but still... he's made all of them. That's insane. And completely unrelated to the Hornets. Back to our regularly scheduled coverage...
- The third quarter was awful. We scored 18. They scored 10. There were so many turnovers and worthless possessions, that we began joking that Joey Crawford was calling fouls for anyone who was on offense. Ugly, to say the least.
- Ju-Ju made an appearance tonight. He only played 4 minutes, but he got a rousing ovation from the fans... hopefully, Byron was listening.
- I'd be willing to bet that none of our readers are St. Louis Card fans like myself, but in case you are, yes I was channeling Jack Buck at the beginning of the post.
Composed to: Crowded House's Temple of Low Men.
Photo courtesy of espn.com