Hornets.com postgame: Spurs 106, Hornets 102
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Spurs (34-11), Hornets (14-28)
It was over when… San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili dropped in one of two free throws to give the hosts a 106-102 lead with just 4.7 seconds remaining. The Ginobili foul shot came after a wild late-game sequence in which the Spurs used a 16-3 run to build a seemingly insurmountable 101-89 edge with 1:42 remaining. Following a string of New Orleans three-pointers and San Antonio miscues, New Orleans made it a one-possession game but ran out of time to complete a comeback. The Hornets were in front 86-85 midway through the fourth quarter, prior to the aforementioned 16-3 Spurs burst. In the final matchup of 2012-13 between the Southwest Division clubs, San Antonio captured the head-to-head season series vs. New Orleans by a 3-1 margin.
Hornets MVP: Four Hornets finished with between 13 and 17 points, making it one of the more difficult calls of the season to pick a top star. Let’s go with Greivis Vasquez, who registered a double-double at 15 points and 11 assists. Vasquez and fellow starting guard Eric Gordon had completely opposite scoring performances – Gordon tallied 17 points in the first half but none in the second, while 10 of Vasquez’s points came after intermission. With New Orleans’ offense sputtering through a big chunk of the second half, Vasquez’s production was sorely needed.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Jason Smith again managed to produce starter-level contributions while playing reserve minutes. In just 16:18 of time on the floor, the 7-footer’s relentless activity was rewarded in the form of 13 points and eight rebounds. He had four offensive boards, including outworking multiple Spurs players who were trying to box him out in the middle of the lane.
The buzz on… shooting guard at the midway point of 2012-13. The absence of Gordon for the first 29 games of the season forced a situation in which both rookie Austin Rivers and Roger Mason were pressed into starting duty in November and December. The 20-year-old Rivers showed his inexperience at the pro level, while at this stage of his career, Mason, 32, is more effective as an offensive weapon off the bench. When Gordon returned on Dec. 29, however, it had instant positive effects on Mason – and the Hornets in general. After starting 6-23 overall without Gordon, the Hornets are 8-5 since (including 7-4 in games Gordon has played). The New Orleans turnaround has come even though Gordon is still trying to find his shooting touch and rhythm, at just 39.6 percent from the field and 30.6 from three-point range. It can’t be a coincidence that Mason has been red-hot since the game in Charlotte when Gordon got back in uniform. The veteran, who signed with New Orleans in free agency after playing for Washington last season, started 2012-13 slowly but his recent tear has him up to 42.7 percent from the three-point arc. Mason has been known as a long-range specialist throughout his decade-long stint in the NBA, but his current rate is a career high. Meanwhile, Rivers’ shooting has been the area where he must make significant improvement in order to bring up his current rates of 33.3, 31.3 and 55.8 percent from the field, three-point stripe and foul line.