New Jersey 92 (19-23) | New Orleans 102 (26-13)
Hey, remember that time we all thought our bench was thin and couldn't hold a candle to any other team's pine-riders? Yeah, well tonight those guys showed up and they did it in fine form.
Let's face it: without D.West, Tyson, or Hilton, the prospects of the Hornets pulling out a victory tonight were fairly slim. At least so we thought. Turns out the theme of "everyone contributes" from Monday's victory over the Pacers carried over to tonight's performance.
What's funny is that before the game, my buddy Curry and I decided that if the Hornets and their depleted front court had to face one team in the league, we'd want them to take on the Nets. And that was before we found out that Chairman Yi would be out with injury.
So how did we do it? Well, Chris put up awesome numbers (again) while narrowly missing his fifth triple-double of the season: 29 points, 8 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block. Meanwhile, Peja also helped to pick up the rebounding slack, dropping a 20/10 for his first double-double of the season. In fact, Peja was particularly agile tonight. He was able to create for himself pretty well off the dribble and was real aggressive on the boards. Very impressed with his performance tonight.
But let's get to the real story: the bench. Even though some of them started, Ely, Marks, Daniels, Posey, and JuJu all contributed in major ways tonight. Posey went 10/7 and JuJu went 11/6 on points and rebounds. Ely, though only managing 4 points, added 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks, while Daniels added 4 assists of his own.
Bottom line is that Byron asked quite a bit from this crew tonight, and they responded well to the pressure. They were extremely physical on defense, refusing easy buckets with fouls (poor Josh Boone went 0-4 from the stripe), and out-rebounding, stealing, and blocking the Nets.
Hopefully, JuJu's contributions will prompt more playing time, as he was obviously a very positive factor on the court tonight, not to mention he got his second ovation in as many games when he first entered the game. But I think the more important thing to take away from tonight's victory is that this bench--for as much as its been belittled by journalists, analysts, and fans alike--can perform when it needs to. It's been a work in progress, but tonight it came together. If we can push leads with Paul/Butler/Peja/West/Chandler or with Paul/Daniels/Butler/Wright/Posey (one of the crazy lineups we ran tonight), then we can hang with anyone.
Couple of observations before I leave you:
- We held Devin Harris to 6/6 on points and assists. That was HUGE. VC can drop points all night, but if no one else is creating (for either themselves or their teammates) then the Nets are going to have a rough rest of the season.
- Bobby Simmons has a pretty stroke. I don't normally take to admiring other team's players, but his shooting motion was just beautiful. Sort of like Rafael Palmeiro's swing but, you know, without the whole steroids thing.
- Ely got blocked bad on two straight possessions towards the end of the game. Not sure if either could have been called as a foul, but both were pretty brutal. Luckily, he contributed 3 blocks to the contest tonight, so I think that evens it out. Sort of.
- Devin Brown rode the pine the whole game. I support this decision.
- In the third, Keyon Dooling twisted an ankle and took a few minutes to get back up. On the next Hornet possession Chris faked Dooling out so bad that it caused the guy behind me to start yelling, "Yeah, you thought it hurt then! Bet that ankle's hurtin' now!" I laughed until the point of tears.
- Chris finished with 5 turnovers. Got to start taking better care of the ball.
- Each player has a little video that plays after he makes a bucket. Most are pretty generic and feature guys dribbling between their legs or something. But not JuJu's. No sir, instead we get JuJu dancing like a fiend with some crazy psychedelic colors swirling all around. Someone please find this gem online and post a link. I MUST HAVE IT!
- In case anyone was wondering who that guy on the bench was, apparently the Hornets signed one Anthony Tolliver to a 10 day contract. He's a big man out of Creighton with very little experience (3 years, mostly in the NBDA) but, depending on the timetables for the return of our big men, he could come in handy.
- Curry and I became famous for about 8 seconds tonight as I got to be the Subway Fan of the Game (the guy who yells "Hornets fans, are you ready? It's game time!" before the team intros) and he got to be the Adidas makeover project (which meant he got a bunch of free Hornets gear). After a season and a half of never appearing on the jumbotron, we both made our rookie appearances in the same night.
- Loyal readers of this blog will remember that I ranted once about random jerseys that find thier way into Hornets games (i.e. David Campbell). Lucky for you, I have an update. Tonight's "Do you know where you are (or what decade it is)?" jersey appearance goes to the guy who sported a Bobby Higginson practice jersey. Yes, that would be the Bobby Higginson of the Detroit Tigers. Unbelievable.
Composed to: Midnight Oil's Diesel and Dust.
Photo courtesy of espn.com