The Hornets made clear that they intend to keep up their Jekyll and Hyde act at least until the playoffs, lowering their magic number to 2 by cruising past the East's 8th seeded team a game after being easily dismantled by Memphis. New Orleans leaped out to a a 24 point lead through three quarters, and though stepping off the gas in the fourth skewed the final statistics somewhat, Monty Williams will likely be pleased by the performance.
In many ways, this was the formulaic Hornet win - low pace (88 possessions), few committed fouls (16% FT/FG rate for Indy), solid defensive rebounding (75% misses collected), and effective defense (65 points allowed on 66 possessions through 3 quarters). Fortunately, two of the newer wrinkles we've seen since January and the All-Star break respectively were also present: offensive rebounding and offensive efficiency.
The Hornet bench contributed 5 offensive boards, including 2 apiece from Aaron Gray and Quincy Pondexter. The story of the offensive (and defensive, for that matter) glass though was, of course, Emeka Okafor. Andrew absolutely nailed it in the game preview, writing that the "Pacers' big men (outside of Tyler Hansbrough) are just too soft to keep up with Oak when he goes into beast mode." Indeed, that's exactly what happened. Okafor picked up 7 offensive boards and vacuumed missed shots all night. Roy Hibbert had a better game than his 1-10 performance earlier in the season, but that's not saying much. Overall, the starting front court of Landry and Oak combined to go 12 for 20 for 32 points and 25 rebounds. That and Chris Paul's night were the primary reasons New Orleans coasted.
More thoughts after the jump.
- James Posey was wearing a green headband. For a guy that used to color coordinate his mouthpiece to match the shades of his various employers, that kind of caught me off guard.
- Trevor Ariza had a terrific offensive night. For me, one of the moves he's really improved this year is the show and go from the perimeter. Especially in November and December, that was a travel every single time for him. Since then, he's not only cut down on the double first step (travel) violation, he's really made the "show" aspect of the move much more convincing. On at least four different occasions tonight, he got a defender completely off his feet with the move.
- Rough game for Quincy. He got quite a few open looks but was only able to stick 1 of 6 shots. Pretty much all his shots came in rhythm so at least things weren't forced.. but it would be nice to see him start scoring with more consistency.
- Speaking of "in rhythm" such a phrase cannot be used to describe Willie Green's offensive night. He repeatedly forced bad shots, his teammates stupidly found him for 4 (relatively open) threes, and the sage of Willie Green continues. There appeared to be a stretch in February and early March where Green was frequently going to his efficient spots on the floor, particularly the curl off the elbow. He's slowly regressing back to the Willie Green of old - taking threes (which he's bad at), taking long twos (which he's bad at and which also happens to be the worst shot in basketball), and completely ignoring teammates on drives. His defensive night was certainly adequate, but his offensive (6 missed shots, 3 turnovers) was most definitely not.
- It's hard not to love Carl Landry, even in light of Marcus Thornton tearing it up in Sacramento. He's just a really solid basketball player.
- Jarrett Jack did well to offset a poor shooting night by getting to the line frequently. Despite shooting 33%, Jack finished with 11 points on 6 shots from the field.
- With the Hornets magic number at 2, a win on Wednesday (1 "point" for the win, 1 "point" for Houston losing to us) puts New Orleans in the playoffs.