Hornets.com postgame: 76ers 101, Hornets 93

Wednesday, January 4, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

76ers (3-2), Hornets (2-4)

It was over when… Jrue Holiday drained a jumper from the left wing to give Philadelphia a 98-89 lead with only 36 seconds remaining. The 76ers went on to hand the Hornets their fourth consecutive loss after a 2-0 start. New Orleans led 73-67 through three quarters but was completely outplayed by its guests in the final stanza. The Hornets continue a stretch against 2011 playoff qualifiers this weekend when they host Denver and visit Dallas. After that, they visit Denver before a Wednesday home game vs. Oklahoma City.

Hornets MVP: The in-arena honor went to Jarrett Jack (19 points, 11 assists), but I’d lean more toward Eric Gordon, who provided the Hornets with a much-needed calming presence and go-to guy almost immediately from tip-off. Gordon appeared poised to improve the Hornets’ record to 2-0 with him in uniform this season, piling up 20 points in the first three periods, but it wasn’t enough. He finished with 22 points, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: In recent games the bench has subsisted largely on the contributions of Chris Kaman and Jason Smith. Both again were factors in reserve duty against the Sixers. Give the slight edge to Kaman, who nearly registered a double-double (10 points, 8 rebounds) in only 24 minutes of playing time. Smith had nine points in 13 minutes and continues to show explosiveness when finishing around the basket.

The buzz on… absolutely no schedule breaks in sight. Through the breakneck first week-plus of the season, there’s barely been enough time to figure out who’s on the docket beyond the next opponent. But as the Hornets try to snap this four-game losing streak, they may not want to gaze at the upcoming slate. It seems mathematically improbable given that there are 29 other NBA teams and 15 of them made the playoffs in 2011, but of New Orleans’ next 15 opponents, 13 are postseason qualifiers from a year ago. During that stretch – which covers the remainder of January – the Hornets face only two clubs without a recent playoff trip (Minnesota, Houston). In other words, if NOLA is to reverse its recent slump, it will have to do it against numerous high-caliber foes. The balance of January includes two games against the defending NBA champions (Dallas), one against the Eastern Conference champs (Miami) and two vs. West runner-up Oklahoma City.

Shootaround: Jan. 4 vs. 76ers

Notes from Wednesday morning’s shootaround in the New Orleans Arena:

• Trevor Ariza (strained right groin) will not play against the 76ers, his first missed game of 2011-12 after starting the first five contests. Second-year small forward Al-Farouq Aminu is expected to start in Ariza’s place. Aminu had his best game so far with New Orleans on Monday at Utah, scoring 11 points.

• Eric Gordon (bruised right knee) is now listed as questionable on the team’s injury report. If this were the NFL, that would mean he has a 50 percent chance of playing vs. Philadelphia. Gordon sounded encouraged by his recent progress. “I’ve been feeling a lot better lately,” a grinning Gordon said, adding that his status tonight is “a game-time decision.”

• Monty Williams sounded much more concerned about the Hornets’ miscues taking care of the ball than their shooting woes during the three-game losing streak. Williams: “If you look at our film, guys are getting open looks. What’s hurting us are turnovers in timely situations. The last two minutes of the (Utah) game, we had three turnovers on four possessions. You can’t get shots if you’re giving (the ball) to the other team.”

• Williams added that although Gordon’s potential return to the lineup would help, he should not be viewed as a cure-all for the Hornets’ recent issues: “We are missing shots, but I don’t want to put all that pressure on Eric. Eric has to play his normal game. (Jarrett) Jack’s got to continue to produce. We may be one of the only teams in the league to count on our point guard to score in double figures every night. But (Gordon coming back) will help our team.”

• Jason Smith, a 76ers reserve in his first two NBA seasons, on playing against Philadelphia: “They’re a running team. We’ve definitely got to get back (on defense). We cannot give them easy buckets. We’ve got to keep our turnovers down, but if we do, work really hard to get back on defense. They like to run-and-gun, and have a lot of athletic players.”