Minnesota 97 (17-33) | New Orleans 101 (30-18)
Ugly game, but we pulled out the W, so it's hard for me to complain.
Ok, so that's not true. I complain all the time. But scrutiny and "analysis" is why I'm here in the first place, so let's do this.
For starters, we probably don't win this game if Al Jefferson hadn't gotten hurt near the end of the fourth. Sure he only missed the final 27 seconds, but if Jefferson ahd been in the post, there's no way Marks would have iced (used loosely here) the contest with what my brother described as "the easiest dunk of his life." Not that we couldn't have won, but I think the chances would have plummeted significantly if we hadn't scored on that possession.
The T'Wolves came out strong early, owning us in the paint and on the boards for most of the first half. They also weren't afraid to get physical, though instead of taking one on the chin and pushing back, the Hornets got flustered and sloppy. A whole lot of pushing, shoving, whistles, and no whistles eventually led to David West's completely indefensible Flagrant 2 on Mike Miller. DX was frustrated about a no call on the other end of the court (or really hard fouls by Cardinal and McCants from earlier) and saw fit to attempt a "steal" by smacking Miller across the face. Oh yeah, and he didn't come close to touching the ball. At all. Dumb. Just dumb, David.
So, with the T'Wolves leading at the half and DX getting ejected, I kind of figured a W was pretty unlikely. Especially considering Peja was ice-cold from the floor, going 2 for 11. Apparently he used all of his allotted treys for the week against Toronto.
But, lucky for me (and every other Hornet fan out there), Rasual Butler and Sean Marks did not share my pessimism. Butler finished with 23, a team-leading 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and 0 turnovers in 40 minutes of play. Meanwhile, Marks dropped 18 points to go with 5 rebounds and a block in 24 minutes and his performance pretty much equalized the points in the paint battle (which finished 36-34 in favor of Minnesota).
All in all, we got solid contributions from most of the squad, and they were able to seal the deal despite big games from Jefferson and Ryan Gomes. We've only got one more contest without CP and it's a very winnable game against the Grizz. Hopefully our boys can scrape together another W and give us little push heading into the break. You know, just in case Boston spoils Chris' return on Wednesday.
Couple of observations before I leave you:
- We couldn't see the Jefferson injury too well from our seats, but my brother said the instant replay at home looked pretty painful. You hate to see guys go down like that. Hopefully, he has a speedy recovery.
- It's very possible that after the requisite league review that accompanies all Flagrant 2 fouls that David will be suspended. Which sucks. It sucks even more when you consider that the league may not turn a suspension around in a day, which means DX would be sitting out against the Celtics on Wednesday. Oof.
- Though he only finished slightly above 50% from the field, tonight's "I could hit shots blindfolded and with one arm tied behind my back" award goes to Ryan Gomes for sinking a handful amazing (and heavily contested) shots. Every time the Hornets would get some momentum rolling, Gomes was there on the other end of the court to promptly kill the crowd's spirit.
- Antonio Daniels contributed 12 points and 7 assists and Devin Brown added 14 points and 3 assists of his own. Not a bad platoon. It doesn't quite offset Chris, but 26 and 10 from the point is never a bad thing.
- JuJu continues to struggle. He seems to have zero confidence in his shot, often passing up open looks to try and create off the dribble. But then he doesn't. He did contribute 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal, but at this point he's producing at the same level as Ryan Bowen.
- Speaking of Bowen, tonight he was ousted from his position as "oldest looking NBA player" after a I got a look at Brian "The Custodian" Cardinal.
- On a final note, I would like to point out that after a Peja trip to the stripe that put us up by 3 with 4 seconds to play, Byron elected to have Devin Brown foul Sebastian Telfair rather than letting the Wolves to try for a trey. It was a gutsy move that ended up paying off. I read a lot of musing on the subject (whether or not it makes sense as a strategy), but I'd never seen it implemented. Nice call, Byron.
Photos courtesy of espn.com
Composed to: XTC's Skylarking
The opponent's take: Canis Hoopus