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Hornets 99, Magic 93: Streak Snapped in Orlando

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Behind the offensive efforts of Willie Green and the rebounding of David West, the New Orleans snapped their losing streak with a win in Orlando.

Let's start with the most important thing: the Hornets put in a strong, strong performance in a game they really shouldn't have been in on paper. Sure, the Magic have had their troubles. But this was a struggling New Orleans side that was missing (arguably) its most important defender and that had its other most important defender hobbling around on one leg. 

New Orleans ground the game pace to a halt, shooting at the extreme end of the 24 second shot clock over and over and over again. The game did crack the 90 possession mark due to a few stretches of multiple quick hitters off turnovers, but in general, the game was played at the tempo Monty Williams wanted. Both teams were essentially even in the four key aspects of the game (shooting, free throws, rebounding, turnovers), and the game ultimately was decided by clutch execution. 

The Hornets executed, the Magic didn't, and that was that. 

Notes:

  • David West's offensive night was quiet (even if decently efficient) but his impact on the boards was undeniable. The Hornets collected 82% of all Magic misses (they collect 77% on the season, 2nd in the league) despite the absence of Emeka Okafor, and that's almost entirely on West. He bodied up, boxed out, and matched Dwight Howard board for board. 
  • Anyone expecting a repeat of Aaron Gray's 2009-2010 shut down of Dwight Howard was left sorely disappointed. Dwight Howard was unguardable for the majority of the night; Monty Williams' strategy to play him physically and force him to the line paid off a little bit, but Howard still had his way.
  • Chris Paul started hot and faded and faded as the game went on. It got so bad that at one point in the fourth quarter, he caught the ball at the top of the key, completely isolated on Jameer Nelson. Without attempting the slightest fake to drive on Nelson, he chucked up a wild jumper that bricked off the back iron.
  • David Andersen's jumper is money. As depressing as it would be to ask the Hornets to focus their efforts more toward... David Andersen, why not? 
  • Jarrett Jack's first half outburst was nice. Then he almost cost the Hornets the game (exaggeration, but it felt pretty awful) during a pivotal stretch early in the fourth quarter where he set up back to back fastbreak dunks for Orlando by turning the ball over in horrible positions. 
  • Trevor Ariza clearly was laboring, coming off his ankle injury. Hedo Turkoglu drove by him multiple times with ease, and Ariza wasn't able to provide good help when the Hornets played zone in the first quarter. Nonetheless, he came up with a huge knock away at 1:07 left in the fourth quarter which gave the Hornets possession with a four point lead. 
  • Willie Green has been great since taking over as the starter for Marco Belinelli, and he efficiently and often in this one. Granted, he was responsible for a very important five point turnaround (threw a lazy pass on a 3 on 1 break, leading to a Magic trey), but he definitely brought more to the table than he took off. His 24 points were absolutely crucial to this win.
  • Between about the 5 minute and 1 minute mark in the fourth quarter, the Magic went through a series of 9 consecutive possessions on which they turned the ball over 6 times and missed 3 field goals. Credit the Hornet defense, but Orlando made a number of key mistakes on its own as well.
  • Didn't catch the replay, but Trevor Ariza appeared to ever-so-slightly push Jason Richardson in the back on the critical inbounds pass at 22.7 seconds. A clever move to get away with it and a continuation of the Hornets' incredible end game inbounds defense this season.
Finally, a comment re: Marcus Thornton. If he's not going to play, whatever. I understand that people can make cases against him based on his defense, the "inconsistency" of his offensive play, etc. The more overarching point is that he still has terrific value around the league. Even if our coaching staff and front office doesn't see it, other teams will and do view him as instant offense. The trade deadline is less than two weeks away. My point is this: play him or trade him. As long as Monty Williams plays him spot minutes, randomly benches him for a week straight, randomly decides to play him in crunch minutes, he's not going to give us anything resembling consistent play. To expect it from him is absurd.

In any case, let's stay focused on the game itself in this post game thread and stay away from excessive Thornton debate. We played a great game and were rewarded for it. Go Hornets.