It would have been easy to excuse a loss tonight. Facing one of the NBA's best teams with Chris Paul out, one doesn't generally expect victory. Yet with the way the standings are situated, every game has "playoff implications" and every win the Hornets can pick up will be crucial to securing a playoff spot. Thankfully, a game that looked like it might get out of hand early turned into one of the best and most exciting wins all season.
It was an implausible victory, but the Hornets did it through excellent rebounding, solid defense and a bunch of equally implausible made shots. Yet for much of the game it seemed unlikely that the Hornets would be able to get over the hump. Every time the Hornets got close the Mavs would push the lead back to 6 or 8 points. On the other hand, despite the Mavericks pushing the lead to double digits on a couple of occasions, the deficit was never unmanageable. As is usually the case, offense was tough to come by for the Hornets. There was not a lot of movement, and guys like Jarrett Jack, Willie Green and Trevor Ariza all took some pretty poor shots. Yet some of the toughest shots seemed to be the ones that went down, including a Marco Belinelli buzzer beating three at the end of the first half.
It was a physical and chippy game, and became more so quarter by quarter. Shawn Marion got shoved into a cameraman by Marco Belinelli. Brian Cardinal and David West had a momentary pushing match. For whatever reason, there always seems to be a certain energy whenever these two teams play that generally leads to close, hard fought games. The determination was evident even as the game seemed to be winding to a close in the Mavericks favor. Suddenly Jarrett Jack and David West were hitting shots, Tyson Chandler was missing free throws, and the Hornets were winning. This win actually marks the eighth straight over the Mavs in New Orleans Arena.
On to some bullet points:
- Jarret Jack was the hero tonight. He was aggressive all game long, and continually called his own number. That's okay, that's who he is, but for much of the game his points total was playing catch-up with his field goal attempts. That changed with an excellent fourth quarter, which culminated in Jack drawing a foul on Jason Kidd out beyond the three point line. Those points gave the Hornets the lead and ultimately the win. Jack finished 21 points (8-19 shooting), 7 assists, 6 rebounds and just 2 turnovers.
- Carl Landry was one of the many Hornets who got into foul trouble tonight, but when he was on the floor he was stellar. Landry's post offense is a fun thing to watch. He has a bevy of moves that he uses against his defender. Contrary to most reserve big men the Hornets have employed in the past few years, Landry's offensive game has real versatility and polish. Landry finished with 15 points on 7-9 shooting from the field. On the defensive end, he had a little trouble with Dirk, but considering the size difference and Dirk's abilities, there's nothing really to complain about there.
- David West struggled with his shot for much of the night, but as previously mentioned he came through in the clutch and hit some tough shots to keep the Hornets in the game. He ended up with 16 points on 5-12 shooting, 10 rebounds and 4 assists. A nice game.
- Marco Belinelli had another great game. He probably should have gotten a few more looks at the basket than he did, considering how well he was shooting. A nice 21 points (including 4-7 from three) and 5 rebounds from Marco.
- At one point it looked like the speedy guard duo of J.J. Barea and Rodrique Beaubois might be the Hornets downfall. They were both using their speed to get by the Hornets defense, and they were hitting shots. But Beaubois started indulging in shotjackery and silly fouls, and Barea ended up turning over the ball 5 times in just 19 minutes.
- Dirk Nowitzski had 26 points on 10-18 shooting, but there were long stretches where he didn't seem to contribute much.
- Tyson Chandler won the Chandler vs. Okafor battle pretty handily. 16 points on 5 field goal attempts (ridiculous) and 13 rebounds for the former Hornet. Okafor played fairly well, but was limited by foul trouble.
- As Rohan mentioned in the game thread, the Hornets did an excellent job on the defensive glass tonight. They collected 90% of the Mavericks misses. West, Ariza, Jack, Okafor, Belinelli and Landry all contributed to a great night on the glass.
- It was a hell of a game. Enjoy the win everyone.