Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 111, Hawks 100

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Hornets (17-33), Hawks (27-22)

It was over when… Greivis Vasquez delivered a pass to Robin Lopez ahead of the Atlanta defense for a fast-break dunk, giving New Orleans a nine-point lead with 1:25 remaining. After one of their best second halves of the season, the Hornets wrapped up a win in the first stop of a three-game road trip against Eastern Conference foes. New Orleans dug a double-digit hole in the first half, but pulled within 55-50 by intermission, then outscored Atlanta by a 61-45 margin. The Hornets will visit Toronto on Sunday, followed by a game at Detroit on Monday. 

Hornets MVP: Vasquez’s memorable performance was highlighted by his first NBA triple-double, with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists. Vasquez, one of the friendliest players on the roster and usually in no shortage of words, described the victory as “Priceless. I thought we played extremely well. My teammates were hitting shots for me. We just have to keep building and keep getting better.” For one stretch of the second half, it appeared as though the native of Venezuela might again come up tantalizingly shy of a triple-double. On Dec. 28 vs. Toronto and Jan. 1 vs. Atlanta, Vasquez needed just one more rebound to accomplish the feat. Even better for the point guard Friday, the Hornets won, which was not the case in either of the aforementioned near-misses. 

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: It’s becoming a broken record lately, but one that the Hornets will gladly see repeated. Ryan Anderson had a quiet first half offensively, then came through with several immense shots to help preserve a victory. After five points in the first 24 minutes, the sixth man extraordinaire buried three three-pointers among his 14 points after the break. Overall, Anderson had 19 points (4-for-7 from beyond the arc) and eight rebounds. Jason Smith also made valuable contributions, including a pair of fourth-quarter jumpers among his eight points. 

The buzz on… exactly how good are the 2012-13 Hornets? You can measure an NBA team in a number of ways, but the bottom line on every club is what appears in black and white in the standings. New Orleans is 17-33 and entered Friday with the worst record in the West. However, when you factor in that the Hornets are now 10-7 in games Eric Gordon (season-high 27 points at Atlanta) has played, you begin to understand why Vasquez has frequently said lately that “our (overall) record doesn’t really identify who we are as a team.” There was a lot of discussion early in the season about how difficult the Hornets’ schedule was, but realistically, that statistic evens out over the course of an 82-game schedule – at least in comparison to teams in your conference. However, this isn’t exactly breaking news to anyone who closely follows the NBA, but there’s a major advantage of playing in the East compared to the West. New Orleans is one of the most telling illustrations of that fact, having gone 8-10 against the East, but just 9-23 vs. their own conference. The Hornets are also 6-4 on the road vs. the East, highlighted by wins over projected playoff clubs including Chicago, Atlanta and Boston. They’re 3-14 on the road vs. the West, including a pair of separate 0-4 trips.