Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 98, Bobcats 95
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Hornets (7-23), Bobcats (7-23)
It was over when… Charlotte’s Ramon Sessions misfired on a rushed three-pointer from the left wing, in an attempt to send the game into overtime. Sessions’ miss as the buzzer sounded enabled New Orleans to celebrate a comeback from a 17-point halftime deficit. In Eric Gordon’s first NBA game since April, the shooting guard performed beyond what you could’ve reasonably expected after such a long layoff, producing 24 points and seven assists in just 25 minutes. Gordon’s minutes are expected to be somewhat restricted short term; on Saturday, he basically played half of each quarter.
Hornets MVP: Gordon appeared to be trying to shake off some rust when he entered Saturday’s game midway through the first quarter. The second-year Hornet tossed an errant pass and began the game at 3-for-10 from the field. However, as the game progressed, the 24-year-old displayed several of the skills that made him a promising player prior to 2011-12. An underrated passer, he repeatedly sliced through the middle of theCharlotte defense to find an open perimeter shooter. On defense, he had two steals and helped cool off the fast-starting Bobcats. Gordon is also attempting to get back into game shape, but still made an immense difference in Game 1. “For sure,” Gordon said, when asked if he was winded at times Saturday. “I was trying to gut it out, especially in the fourth quarter.” Gordon often set up Ryan Anderson (19 points, 3-for-6 on treys) for quality looks on the perimeter. “Guys knocked down shots when I was penetrating,” Gordon described.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: The hands-down unsung hero of Saturday’s victory was Roger Mason, who did not play in the first half. After being tabbed to start the second half at shooting guard, the veteran exhorted his New Orleans teammates as they walked onto the floor, then led by example with invaluable contributions. Not only did he score a season-high 13 points (including 4-for-5 three-point shooting), but it was his best all-around game as well. He played 21:20 of the 24-minute second half, also grabbing six rebounds and dishing out three assists. Combined with Gordon’s 24 points and Anderson’s 19, the New Orleans bench totaled 62 points.
The buzz on… the domino effect of Gordon’s return. The impact of having the team’s likely leading scorer should be fairly obvious from a black-and-white, points perspective. But it’s not only about how many points Gordon scores himself. Although Anderson has been lights-out shooting the ball at times this season, his degree of difficulty has been extremely high, with defenders often draped all over him. He’s had to force some quick shots not only because the team simply needs him to supply big offensive numbers, but also because the Hornets have been in late-shot clock situations too frequently. Gordon helps solve a couple of those problems, with his ability to create his own shot, as well as draw attention on drives to the basket. Gordon can be a dangerous shooter from the outside, but his most prized skill is his quickness and knack for finishing around the basket, or drawing a foul and getting to the free-throw line (he’s above 80 percent from the charity stripe in his NBA career). Gordon also can help make Anthony Davis a more effective weakside scorer, enabling Davis to be even more opportunistic on the offensive boards and on dives to the rim. Long story short, Gordon could allow several players to slide into more comfortable roles, particularly at the offensive end.