Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 89, Bulls 82
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Hornets (2-1), Bulls (2-1)
It was over when… Brian Roberts connected on two free throws with 8 seconds remaining, giving New Orleans an insurmountable three-possession advantage at 89-82. The Hornets backed up their Friday home victory over Utah by prevailing in their first road game of 2012-13, over a Chicago team that tied for the best record in the NBA last season (50-16). Granted, the Bulls are without former No. 1 pick and league MVP Derrick Rose, but the Hornets didn’t have Anthony Davis, out after sustaining a mild concussion.
Hornets MVP: Greivis Vasquez, Robin Lopez and Jason Smith all were worthy candidates and each scored between 16 and 18 points, but the edge goes to Smith for delivering big-time in the clutch. The 7-footer from Colorado State only had four points entering the final quarter, but piled up 12 in the last 12 minutes. He was also a critical 6-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth period, helping keep the Bulls at arm’s length in the hosts’ bid to remain unbeaten. "I was just trying to go out there and have a little bit of energy," Smith explained. The frontcourt reserve did more than just make energy plays, though, contributing 12 of New Orleans' final 23 points down the stretch.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: With Smith taking game MVP honors, Roger Mason was the other important reserve forNew Orleans, scoring eight points in his 21 minutes of playing time. With his combination of intelligence on defense and ability to make perimeter shots – not to mention he’s an 85.8 career foul shooter – the 32-year-old continues to get the nod in crunch time, giving the Hornets a steadying presence in the fourth quarter. Mason canned a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter, after drilling two three-pointers in the second quarter, helping stake New Orleans to a 46-44 halftime lead.
The buzz on… relying on a suffocating D to win while shorthanded. How do you beat a quality opponent on the road, despite missing arguably your two most important players due to injury? One word: Defense. The veteran Bulls are one of the most cohesive teams in the league, and although Rose is out now and expected to miss much of this season, many of their core guys have played together for several years. New Orleans made Chicago look out of sorts at times and twice limited the Bulls to under 20 points in a quarter. “We played tremendous defense,” Smith assessed. “We had big contributors down the stretch. We held this team to 82 points. That’s tough to do. The Bulls scored 115 the night before (in a Friday rout ofCleveland), but 82 tonight.” The Hornets swatted nine shots, led by Lopez’s four rejections.Chicago was just 29-for-88 (33 percent) from the field. Several Hornets players mentioned after Friday’s victory that ifDavis was sidelined, other guys would have to increase their production. That’s what happened. The Hornets’ leading point producers in theWindyCity were Vasquez (18), Lopez (16) and Smith (16), three players whose NBA career scoring averages are 6.2, 5.8 and 5.1, respectively.