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Hornets rookie Marcus Thornton is averaging 11.3 ppg this season.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images

Hornets' Thornton makes his case with big night

By Drew Packham,
Posted Feb 24 2010 10:31AM

Entering the Hornets' game Tuesday night against the Cavs, Marcus Thornton's career-high for scoring was 25 points.

He nearly matched that with one incredible quarter.


Thornton came off the bench to score 23 points -- a franchise record in one quarter -- in the Hornets' 40-point second quarter. The second-round pick out of LSU was 10-for-13 from the field and hit his first five shots to help the Hornets turn an eight-point deficit into a three-point lead at the half.

"[Thornton] was aggressive coming off screens and was confident when he went up to shoot the ball," Hornets coach Jeff Bower said.

"He did a nice job balancing his perimeter shot with putting it on the floor to get to the rim."

Thornton finished the game with 37 points -- second only among rookies this season to Brandon Jennings' 55-point performance -- on 15-for-22 shooting (3-for-7 on 3s). Fellow rookie Darren Collison, not to be outdone, finished with 22 points and 10 assists for his fifth double-double of the season.

"When you play against one of the great players, you know you had better bring your 'A' game," Thornton said. "That's what we tried to do tonight."

Unfortunately, that "great player" Thornton mentioned -- LeBron James -- got the last laugh as the Cavs pulled out the 105-95 win, snapping their own three-game losing streak.

"I would rather have a 'W,'" Thornton said. "The records mean something, but they would mean more if we had won."

Spoken like a veteran.'s Rookie Rankings are just one man's opinion and are released every Wednesday during the season. If you've got an issue with the rankings, or have a question or comment for Drew Packham, send him an e-mail. You can also follow him on Twitter. For past week's rankings, click here.

1. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 1 | Drafted: 4
You know you've arrived when you get to break bread with the President of the United States. Evans was among a group of about 30 who had dinner with President Barack Obama at George Maloof's house in Las Vegas last week. Before last year's draft, the Commander in Chief had pushed for Evans to go to Sacramento, so the Kings' owners thought it fitting to have Evans fly in for the dinner. "It was the most exciting moment of my life," Evans told "For me to get that chance, it was an honor." Evans said he and Obama mostly talked basketball and that Obama was "on top of his game" when it came to hoops knowledge, aware of the recent trade of Kevin Martin, which put the Kings' crown securely upon Evans' young head.

2. Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Last Week: 2 | Drafted: 7
After scoring 32 points to help the Warriors rally from a 17-point deficit to stun the Hawks on Sunday, Curry had this to say: "We just stayed hungry. We never think we're out of it." If he keeps that same attitude with the Rookie of the Year race, he may be able to make a late charge on Evans, however unlikely it seems at this point. Before Tuesday's down game (17 points on 8-for-22 shooting, 1-for-8 on threes), Curry had averaged an eye-popping 23.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 9.2 assists and 2.2 steals over a six-game span.

3. Darren Collison, New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 4 | Drafted: 21
Quick, who's the leading rookie scorer since the All-Star break? Evans? Nope. Jennings? Wrong. Curry? Guess again. OK, you're reading Collison's blurb, so I'm sure you figured by now it's the Hornets' fill-in point guard. Collison is averaging 22.5 points and 10 assists (also tops since the break) in four games, which included his first career triple-double in a win over the Pacers. "It means a lot, but I was just going out there and my teammates were telling me to lead and they'll be supportive," Collison said. "I was just going out there and playing my game. Hopefully I'll get a lot more in my career as I had one today. I was just going out there and helping the team win."

4. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks
Last Week: 3 | Drafted: 10
All Jennings seems to talk about is getting the Bucks to the playoffs, but the team has to be concerned with his continued struggles from the field. Here's Jennings' percentages by month: 42 in November, 37.6 in December, 32.4 in January and 29.8 in February. On 3-pointers, his numbers have dipped as well: 49.3 in November, 32.4 in December, 35.2 in January and 28.1 in February. And it's no coincidence that Jennings has better numbers in the Bucks' victories, knocking down 45 percent of 3s in wins to 32 percent in loss. If Jennings wants to get the Bucks to the playoffs, he'll need to focus more on better shot selection and running the offense through Andrew Bogut, who averages 19.1 points in Bucks' wins to 12.8 in losses.

5. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Week: 5 | Drafted: 6
Flynn, a happy-go-lucky guy, marches to the beat of his own drum -- literally. In a recent interview, Flynn told USA Today one of his hidden talents is that he "can play the drums really well." But, when asked how he'd fare on Americn Idol, Flynn wasn't so confident. "I'll be honest, I have no singing talent. ... I'd be the one Simon (Cowell) rips apart if I go on American Idol. That's the only part of the show I'd be on, the part with the bad people." At least he's got basketball, in which he's scored in double digits in four straight games.

6. Marcus Thornton, New Orleans Hornets
Last Week: 8 | Drafted: 43
After facing Thornton on his career night Tuesday, the Cavs had great things to say. "He played extremely well," said LeBron James. "When you're in a zone, you hate to be on the losing end. He's a really good scorer and we got some stops on him at the end." Said Cleveland coach Mike Brown: "He's a good young player. He's quick, can shoot the three, can get to the rim and has a medium game. We weren't as physical on him as we should have been." And Shaquille O'Neal, a fellow LSU product had this to say: "He's nice. He's a great kid. I watched him play a couple of times. He's doing well. He reminds me of a Maurice Williams."

7. Taj Gibson, Chicago Bulls
Last Week: NR | Drafted:
Gibson is playing some of the best basketball among rookies since the break. In the Bulls' five games, Gibson has averaged 12.6 points and 11.2 rebounds while helping Chicago go 4-1. "He works," Del Negro told "He's such a great kid. He's very coachable. He wants to learn. He's always working. Taj has got great activity on the defensive end and offensively he was moving around the basket and he's long. He's longer than you think."

8. Omri Casspi, Sacramento Kings
Last Week: 6 | Drafted: 23
After entering the break on a two-game winning streak, the Kings have reverted to their losing ways, dropping their first five after the break. Casspi came out hot, averaging 15 points and six rebounds in the Kings' first three games, then saw his production dip, averaging 4.5 and 3.5 in the last two games. With the addition of Carl Landry in the frontcourt, it will be interesting to see how Casspi's numbers are affected.

9. Jonas Jerebko, Detroit Pistons
Last Week: 9 | Drafted: 39
Jerebko came out of the break hot, scoring 21 points in just 21 minutes to help the Pistons to a 108-85 rout of the Wolves. The Swedish forward is shooting 57 percent from the field in the Pistons' five games, and head coach John Kuester gushes about the second-round gem. "Jonas keeps getting better and better," Kuester said. "That's the impressive thing."

10. Chase Budinger, Houston Rockets
Last Week: NR | Drafted:
The Rockets traded away one of their best assets in Carl Landry, and the emergence of Chase Budinger may be part of the reason. Budinger has scored in double digits in his last five games, averaging 12.8 since the break, and more importantly, may help new acquisition Jordan Hill -- a college teammate at Arizona -- reach his potential. "We talked about how fun it would be to play on the same team again," Budinger told the Houston Chronicle. "He's a real good player. He hasn't gotten an opportunity, yet. He has a lot to learn. He's very raw."

Honorable Mention: DeMar DeRozan, Raptors: Had 14 point on 6-for-7 shooting and grabbed six rebounds in Raptors' win over Nets; David Andersen, Rockets: Averaging 9.2 points, 6.3 rebounds in four games; Jrue Holiday, Sixers: In four games since All-Star break, averaging 10.5 points and 3.8 assists; Garrett Temple, Rockets: Recent call-up from the NBA D-League had 11 points in 19 minutes in win over Bucks;

Dropped out:
Ty Lawson, DeJuan Blair

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