Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 105, Clippers 98
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Hornets (4-9), Clippers (8-6)
It was over when… Greivis Vasquez sank two free throws with 15 seconds remaining, giving New Orleans a three-possession advantage at 103-95. Vasquez’s foul shots essentially sealed the Hornets victory, which ended a frustrating seven-game losing streak. New Orleans played arguably its best game of 2012-13, good for an upset win over a Clippers team that was trying to halt its own losing skid, now at four games. The Hornets went 1-3 on their four-game road trip, but two of those defeats were in overtime. The club heads back east two time zones to begin a five-game homestand Wednesday vs. Utah.
Hornets MVP: For the second time in the past three games, Vasquez scored 25 points, a career high. In Monday’s much-needed win over the Clippers, he also handed out 10 assists and grabbed six rebounds. It didn’t seem that way from watching the game, but his one negative stat was eight turnovers. Still, the third-year pro made big shot after big shot in the second half, repeatedly quelling a Clippers rally with a timely three-pointer. He scored 16 points after intermission, including two treys apiece in the third and fourth quarters. His five made trifectas also equaled a career best.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: It was a toss-up here between Jason Smith (17 points, 7-for-8 foul shooting) and Austin Rivers (14 points, 6 assists), but let’s give the nod to Rivers, who played his best game as a pro. The Duke University product has begun receiving criticism nationally for his ultra-early subpar shooting numbers, but he responded with an invaluable performance Monday. Rivers sank three three-pointers, including a cold-blooded bomb in the fourth quarter. Overall, this was also the best game of the season for the NOLA bench, which outscored their more decorated L.A. counterparts 44-28.
The buzz on… heated games between the Hornets and Clippers. It won’t be listed as one of the NBA’s best current rivalries (and based on traditional criteria such as playoff meetings or shared success, it probably shouldn’t be), but New Orleans and L.A.’s “other team” have played only ultra-intense contests over the past two seasons. One obvious fuel to the fire is the fact that multiple players were involved in the December 2011 trade that sent Chris Paul to California. But for whatever reason, there seems to be an additional amount of chippy play when the Hornets and Clips meet. The March 2012 incident in which Smith leveled Blake Griffin on a fast break has not been forgotten by L.A.; as Smith would tell you, he deserved the ejection and publicly apologized for the uncharacteristic flagrant foul. Still, from a Hornets perspective, fans and several players - some of whom are no longer with New Orleans - were displeased by the amount of taunting Clippers players were exhibiting earlier that night, including at least one directed specifically at Smith. Monday, in his second game against the Clippers since last March, Smith got the last word, burning the Clippers by drilling some of his patented mid-range jumpers. Described as a non-talented “thug” by at least one national media member following his takedown of Griffin, Smith is actually one of the friendliest players in the NBA off the court. On it, he’s steadily improved since his arrival in New Orleans, evolving into a key member of the rotation.