The Hornets lack of success against the Jazz in recent seasons has often been attributed to Deron Williams frequently stellar performances against fellow 2005 lottery pick Chris Paul. Well, this time Paul dominated the matchup between the fourth-year All-Star-caliber point guards, outscoring his Utah counterpart 26-8. That was just about the only category, however, where the Hornets held an advantage tonight.
Utah flexed its superior depth and balance to build a 20-point lead through three quarters and handed New Orleans (21-11) its most one-sided defeat of the season. The Jazz improved to 9-3 against the Hornets since 2005-06, the season Williams and Paul made their NBA debuts. New Orleans has not beaten Utah more than once in any of the four seasons; the next meeting in 2008-09 will take place Feb. 21 in Salt Lake City.
One night after their most impressive triumph of this season, an 11-point victory on the Lakers home floor, the Hornets ended their four-game road trip in ugly fashion. Still, Byron Scott said prior to the trek that a 2-2 mark would qualify as a good trip, and thats what New Orleans came away with after beating Portland and the Lakers during an extremely daunting week of games.
An updated look at how the Hornets fared during the Jan. 2-7 trip:
Chris Paul: Another spectacular week, averaging 26.3 points and 11.0 assists, highlighted by 32 and 15 against the Lakers. Hes still third in the All-Star voting among Western Conference guards behind Kobe and McGrady, but should be making headway in the MVP conversation the way hes playing.
Rasual Butler: Bounced back from combined 0-for-5 shooting in Portland and Denver with two decent outings. He continues to display a better all-around game than hes shown throughout his four-season Hornets tenure, saying recently that hes playing the best basketball of his career.
Peja Stojakovic: Quiet overall during the trip, averaging 11.5 points on 17-for-43 shooting (40 percent).
David West: Great in first three games, piling up 25, 21 and 40 points on 34-for-59 shooting (58 percent).
Tyson Chandler: Fouls continue to hamper his playing time. Scoring a little more lately (9.3 ppg on trip), but rebounds were down (6.8 rpg).
James Posey: Clutch baskets in the first three games of the trip, including go-ahead three-pointer in Denver with about a minute remaining. Also rebounded well defensively and provided his usual one-on-one defense.
Hilton Armstrong: Took advantage of Chandlers 1 ½-game absence with 12 and 17 points at Portland and Denver, the best two-game stretch of his three-year career.
Antonio Daniels: Hasnt been aggressive offensively, totaling only 10 points on trip, but had 11 assists and averaged about 12 minutes to allow CP to rest a bit.
Melvin Ely: Has moved back into the rotation ahead of Sean Marks over the past two games, after not playing since Dec. 26.
Devin Brown: Moved ahead of Morris Peterson as backup two guard after DNPs in the first two games of the trip.
Morris Peterson: Out of 10-player rotation in last two games, with DNP at Lakers and only a late-game appearance at Utah after the Jazz built a huge lead.
Sean Marks: Made four-minute cameo in Denver and fourth-quarter appearance at Utah, but is out of the rotation after a fairly long stint in it.
Julian Wright: Has been inactive recently with the roster finally sporting 14 healthy players. Last appeared on the court Dec. 25 in Orlando.
Ryan Bowen: Like Wright, his last appearance was on Christmas, but has been a frequent inactive of late.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
On the game:
I thought we had a lot of energy in the first quarter and then we just didnt have anything left. I told them we just have to leave that game here and go home. It still was a successful road trip. Obviously you dont like to end like this and we are exactly where we were last year at this particular time. I think last year we played more on a consistent level and this year we are more up and down. We know we have a long way to go. Thats (Utah) a very good time over there and we said that from the beginning. They just beat us in every way you can.
On Utahs style of play:
You dont want to play a physical team like that after you just played a tough game on the road the night before. Especially coming in here because they are so good here in Utah. You have to give them credit. They are a very well coached team. Mr. Sloan has been one of the best coaches in this league and we just have to be ready the next time we play them.
On the game
The second quarter they [Jazz] really jumped on it, got a lot of easy buckets in transition, and when you let a team like this get easy buckets, then they get rolling. Second quarter we did what we could, third quarter they really jumped on this thing and that was that. I think we need to give a little more effort night-in and night-out. Weve got to get more consistent. We had a big win last night, and I dont think we are a team of excuses. We should never come in tonight and say we won last night, so we can rest tonight.
On Deron Williams:
Its not a one-on-one game. Its the Jazz vs. the Hornets. We are great friends, we talk all of the time, all day, every day, and its just a game.
On Paul Millsaps performance:
I wish we could have played a little bit better. We needed to get a couple of rebounds to keep Millsap off the boards; he played extremely well tonight. Well just have to play him better the next time we play them.
On the 2-2 road trip:
With this team, Im still not happy about it. 2-2, 50 percent, thats not good enough for me. If we would have won three or four, that would have been a little better, but this last game would have meant a lot to us.