New Orleans used strong games from Chris Paul, David West, and Willie Green to get off to a good start following the All Star break.
This was the first night in a long time where I felt at ease for much of the game. The Hornets got off to a strong defensive starts (outscoring Los Angeles 23-16 in the first quarter) and maintained a decent lead through the rest of the night. They prevented the Clippers from making any significant runs and got contributions from across the roster. Notes after the jump.
- New Orleans dealt with Blake Griffin by bringing hard double and triple teams on him. Griffin had absolutely no idea what to do; at various times, he turned toward his own bench and picked up his dribble, and even threw the ball off the backside of the backboard during one fourth quarter triple team. Griffin finished with 4 turnovers. More importantly, he cost his team a ton of potential assists.
- David West had one of those understated nights that quietly ends up being crucial to the victory. 22 and 8, and he (not that I condone it..) whacked Griffin across the head numerous times without being called for it.
- Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I'm kind of sort of terrified of Chris Paul's layups. I know this sounds insane to say because of the sheer number of ridiculous finishes he has, but I've never been absolutely, without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt confident with his finishing abilities directly at the rim, the way one might be with a Tony Parker. Again, maybe the Skills Challenge messed with my head a little bit. But when he pulled that ridiculous move late in the fourth quarter to get to the rim uncontested, I was kind of petrified.
Please don't miss this. Please don't miss this. Please don't miss this.
Then he pulled whatever the hell that thing was, attempting a wild reverse for some unknown reason, and slamming the ball randomly off the backboard.
I totally understand if anyone thinks that's crazy talk. I can't shake the thought nonetheless.
- In any case, Chris Paul was splendid. 19 points on 17 shots, 10 assists against 2 turnovers, 3 steals, and 6 boards. Not too shabby.
- I thought Aaron Gray did a solid job on both ends of the floor. Yes, he was owned on some defensive possessions, but that's Blake Griffin for you. On offense, he got to open space near the hoop well, and his teammates found him. No Mbenga tonight, but I really don't think the Mbenga/Gray pairing at backup 5 would be the worst thing ever.
- Willie Green was MEAN. He made smart cuts, he floated to the corners (if Green shot all his threes from just the corners, I would not complain about another of his threes ever again), and he had his shot going.
- Jason Smith was a serious liability both defensively and on the glass. At one point in the third quarter, he picked up loose ball fouls on back to back defensive rebounding opportunities. While Carl Landry doesn't have Smith's range, I expect him to pick up the majority of Smith's power forward minutes.
- Oh, Jarrett Jack. Will he ever turn the corner? Who knows. He made some positive plays tonight, but he also made some startlingly negative ones. His overall line (10 points on 7 shots, 4 assists vs. 2 turnovers) was actually pretty fine.
- The other thing I'll mention re: Jack is that, for maybe the first time this year, the Jack-Paul backcourt duo really seemed to be effective on both defense and offense. I don't like Jack as the first shooting guard off the bench (I hope we move for someone before the Thursday deadline), but it worked decently in this game.
- Marco was white hot in the first half and didn't play a single minute in the second half. This is exactly the thing we crucified Monty Williams for in terms of his usage of Marcus Thornton. If anyone has an explanation for this, I'd like to hear it.
- Gary Chouest was still at his customary courtside seat. I don't mention it in a "he hasn't been there, and he is now" way; rather, he's been courtside consistently for a while, and he continues to be. David Stern reiterated over All Star Weekend that the future of the Hornets remains in New Orleans. With Cuban's criticism of the league's ownership today, the heat on the league to find a suitable owner will presumably increase in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.
Anyways, this was a decent way to start the post-AS break run. It wasn't as pretty as it could have been, but a win's a win's a win, and a double digit win is also a double digit win is also a double digit win. Hornets are back at it on Friday in Minnesota. We're expected to have both Emeka Okafor and Carl Landry in the lineup, and we could have a new addition based on what Dell Demps does tomorrow.