Top Ten Moments of Season: #5 - Hornets Beat The Heat, Keep Undefeated Start Alive

HornetsMomentFive

Predictions are something that a lot of people put stock in.  It doesn't make much sense to do so, as anybody's personal interpretation of a situation is bound to be different from someone else's.  In that regard, sometimes you come out looking like a genius and sometimes you come out looking fairly foolish.  Essentially, if you're right about half the time on predictions then you're probably doing well for yourself.  So taking that into account, was there a reason for the game to take place at the New Orleans Arena on November 5th?  By all means, one team had been predicted to be cellar dwellers in their own division and the other was projected as possibly the greatest team ever before they ever took the court.  But that, my friends, is why we play the game.  It was early in the season but it was a message sent to everyone watching.  The number five moment is the Hornets victory over the Miami Heat.

The game was of personal interest to Hornets fans.  It's been well documented how LeBron James and company conspired to join up together in one location and win many championships.  It's also documented how after that move, Hornets guard Chris Paul joined up with LeBron's management and "reportedly" demanded a trade.  So a matchup with LeBron James and company was also a personal one for Hornets fans; those who felt that LeBron had influenced Paul to the point of abandoning his team in New Orleans.  To add even more interest to the game, the Hornets had gotten off to a hot start to the season and were entering the game at 4-0.  There were still doubts as to whether the start was sustainable and a matchup with the trio of all stars in Miami, who were 4-1 at the time, was a good early season barometer to test how good the Hornets possibly could be. 

The atmosphere was incredible as it was the first sellout of the season for the Hornets.  The Hornets fed off that environment and jumped out to an early lead of 14-4 midway through the first quarter.  Emeka Okafor and Chris Paul, who would be the stars the entire night, were the culprits behind the early start with an array of dunks and alley oops and Emeka himself would sustain that dominance all night: killing Miami's frontcourt for 26 points and 13 rebounds while shooting 12 of 13 from the field.  The Hornets managed to maintain a decent lead throughout the majority of the first half and went into the break up 50-41.  That's when things started to get tense.

The Hornets were getting great production out of their bench, namely Jason Smith with 12 points and 6 rebounds and solid defense out of Willie Green on Dwyane Wade, who was held to 7 of 16 shooting in the game.  But Wade did manage 13 free throws and he and LeBron as a whole shot 21 themselves; making 20 of them to keep the Heat in the basketball game.  The Hornets were up 86-79 with 5 minutes left when Wade hit a three pointer and followed it up with drawing a foul on Belinelli behind the three point line.  This immediately cut the lead to 86-85 with 3:35 left and the drama ensued.  Chris Paul was called for a questionable offensive foul call and LeBron James hit four free throws to give Miami a 90-89 lead with a minute remaining.  Belinelli then hit two free throws to give the Hornets the lead back as the game really took a dramatic direction.

The Hornets got the ball back when Wade dribbled the ball out of bounds and Chris Paul made the play happen.  He dribbled and penetrated into the heart of Miami's defense and kicked it out to Trevor Ariza, who was spotting up right in front of Miami's bench.  Ariza let the shot go and the three swished into the basket, giving the Hornets the 94-90 lead with 14 seconds left.  Chris Bosh would add a three to put the Heat back in the game but David West would nail two free throws to give the Hornets the victory at the final score of 96-93. 

In the grand scheme of things, no banners were raised in memory of the victory and nothing was truly won other than a basketball game that night in New Orleans.  But just for a moment, sweet vindication over LeBron James and company ignited the Hive and put a sense of pride back into the Hornets that had been lacking for the past two seasons.  Their undefeated streak to begin the season continued (and would last until the 9th game of the season) and Chris Paul found a way to defeat the Miami trio in New Orleans.  Paul's 19 assists set the tone for the rest of his teammates; all came up big for him and for the team and the Hornets managed to beat the Heat.  And that's why this comes in as moment number five on our countdown of the ten greatest for the Hornets season.

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