Orlando 85 (39-14) | New Orleans 117 (32-20)
Chris. Paul. Is. Freakin. Amazing.
Holy awesome point guards! Did anybody see that win coming? Even if, for some insane reason, you actually believed we stood a chance against Dwight "47/19/8" Howard with no one to guard him in the paint, there's no way you'd have predicted we'd outscore them in the paint 44 to 18 or that we'd win by more than 20 points, right?
Chris was a monster tonight. He dropped 36 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 turnover in... are you ready for this... 33 minutes of playing time. Crazy, right? He started the game by dropping his first six shots and, by the time four and a half minutes ticked off the clock, he had 12 of our first 17 points. Amazing.
Five other guys added double-digit point totals (but none had more than 15), but the real credit for this victory goes to the Hornets' interior defense. I'll say it again, since it bears repeating. Our interior defense was a major factor in our win tonight. The Magic ran a weak-side iso to Howard for most of the first half (which any coach with sense would have tried), but Hilton and Kiwi stepped up to the challenge in a major way. Both got owned a few times (it just happens when you have the unpleasant assignment of guarding Howard), but they also held Dwight to a very human 12 points, 8 boards which, in case anyone is interested, is exactly one point better than Melvin Ely's performance tonight. Granted, they were never really on the court at the same time, but still... Dwight barely outperformed Melvin Ely. Crazy.
As awesome as this performance was, I don't think it completely erases the memory of the walloping this team gave us for Christmas (which, like tonight's game, was also on national television). Regardless, it was a solid step towards the larger goal of regaining the ground (and confidence) we lost leading into the All-Star break.
Let's hope we can carry some of this energy over to Friday's game against the Lakers.
Couple of observations before I leave you:
- We shot awesome as a team tonight: 58% from the field, 50% from beyond the arc. However, we only managed 60% of our free throws (Melvin alone missed 5). It didn't bite us tonight, but we've got to do better than that on something deemed a "free" throw. Fortunately, the Magic only hit 55% from the stripe.
- Got to hand it to Marks and Hilton tonight. I know I already pointed out their efforts on defense, but I think it's worth reiterating. Doing the dirty work isn't sexy–and it won't always show in a box score–but these guys took the hits and the fouls. And in the end, they held a beast of a player in check.
- Dwight Howard might be the most likeable guy in the league. He's always smiling. He dances to the songs at halftime. He (playfully) trash talks with 7 year old fans. And he's awesome at basketball (except for tonight). You couldn't ask for a nicer guy to anchor your team. There's probably a different discussion to be had about whether or not your star should have a bit of mean streak in him (yes, please), but Howard is just plain fun to watch both on and off the court.
- Quick rule question for anyone who knows: if a shooting foul is whistled and the fouled player's shot is goal-tended, does he get the points and one? Dwight blocked one off the board tonight against... well, I forget, but it was after a whistle that prompted a trip to the charity stripe. Even if I mis-saw the play, what would happen in the scenario I described above? I mean, there's no way players can get away with goal-tending on a shooting foul, otherwise, everybody would do it and we'd never see an and-1. Right?
- Slightly unrelated to this game: I'm worried about this Tyson thing. I was just getting used to his departure, but now the team that made out like bandits doesn't even want him and we're right back where we were with regards to the luxury tax for next season. I don't really know what to make of this stuff anymore.
Photos courtesy of espn.com
Composed to: Danger Mouse's The Grey Album
The opponent's take: Third Quarter Collapse