Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 104, Timberwolves 92
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Hornets (11-25), Timberwolves (16-17)
It was over when… Jason Smith finished off an individual fourth-quarter scoring binge, draining his fifth straight jump shot of the period to give New Orleans a 93-80 lead with 3:05 remaining in regulation. The Hornets repeatedly ran pick-and-pop plays with Smith, who kept swishing unguarded attempts from 15 to 18 feet. The Hornets, who are playing by far their best basketball of the season, won their fourth consecutive game and are 5-1 in the six games Eric Gordon has played since Dec. 29. Next up for New Orleans is a three-game Eastern road trip that begins Sunday at New York.
Hornets MVP: There were numerous candidates, which in and of itself tells you something about how much New Orleans has improved over the past two weeks. The Hornets’ balanced offensive attack featured six players in double-digit scoring – three starters and three reserves – all between 10 and 18 points. There has been a great deal of discussion lately about Eric Gordon giving the Hornets a much-needed closer, and his impact has been undeniable. In this game, however, it was Smith doing the closing. The Colorado State product scored 12 points in the opening 8:52 of the fourth quarter, enabling the Hornets to stretch their lead out to an insurmountable margin. “It’s just getting open shots,” Smith credited of the quality of shots he was getting. “It's really just going out there and executing our offense."
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: You can’t ask much more from a long-range specialist like Roger Mason than what he’s done during the team’s 5-2 stretch (following the 6-23 start to 2012-13). The veteran shooting guard has made 12 of his last 14 three-point attempts, including going 2-for-2 on Friday. Mason delivered a 10-point outing, all in the final three quarters, a major key to the come-from-behind win. “He’s very confident and he knows his role,” Ryan Anderson (15 points) said. “He can be a huge lift for us. I think he’s had a mentality, especially the past few games, that we need him to be aggressive. When he gets going, it gets the whole team going.”
The buzz on… a big test in the Northeast. Over the next five days, the Hornets will face three teams that made the Eastern Conference playoffs last season: New York, Philadelphia and Boston. New Orleans has garnered some attention around the league for its four-game winning streak, but it will serve notice that the recent stretch is no fluke if the victories continue in three major media markets. “It’s about our defense and how hard we fight,” Anderson said, when asked about the road trip. “I really believe it’s about us, not the other teams we’re facing. If we play our game, it’s going to be tough for other teams to beat us. Obviously we want to build off this. We don’t want to focus too much on this streak, but at the same time we don’t want to let it go.”