Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 92, Magic 89 (OT)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (23-16), Magic (25-13)

It was over when… in an attempt to force a second overtime period, J.J. Redick’s turnaround three-pointer from the right wing misfired badly. Chris Paul grabbed a defensive rebound and dribbled out the remaining clock. New Orleans improved to 15-5 at home and posted one of its best victories of the 2010-11 season, while ending Orlando’s nine-game winning streak.

Hornets MVP: It’s no overstatement to say this was one of the most impressive games Emeka Okafor has played in a New Orleans uniform. Last season, Okafor was taken out of the game in crunch time vs. Orlando (replaced at center by Aaron Gray). On Wednesday, he logged 46 minutes (out of 53 possible) and posted 18 points (8-for-11 shooting) and 14 rebounds.

“That’s unbelievable,” Paul said of Okafor’s excellent double-double. “That’s great. Any night he has that, it’s going to be hard to beat us.”

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: One of the easiest selections of the season after Marcus Thornton registered 22 points and nine rebounds, the first a season-best and the latter only two shy of his career-high. After Marco Belinelli sustained a sprained right ankle just a minute into the game, Thornton was required to step into a larger role. He ended up playing a season-high 32 minutes. His prior high in that category was 30 minutes at San Antonio way back in October.

The buzz on… New Orleans’ defensive strategy against Orlando All-Star post presence Dwight Howard. The Magic are one of the premier three-point shooting teams in the NBA, in no small part because of the defensive attention that their massive center commands. In Wednesday’s game, however, Okafor did a commendable job playing Howard one-on-one, which allowed the rest of the New Orleans defense to stay with Orlando’s perimeter marksmen.

“When Mek was in there, it was unbelievable, because we didn’t have to double-team,” Paul explained. “A lot of teams have to double-team Dwight. We still might have to next time we play them – you just never know – but I think Mek did an outstanding job of staying in there and fighting the whole game.”

Added Trevor Ariza, “Our gameplan is always to help (on defense), but Mek just did such a great job on him by himself, that we were able to stay home (and not leave shooters open).”

Blog question of the night: What mid-term grade has starting center Emeka Okafor earned at the halfway point of the regular season? Okafor is hopeful is that his second season with the Hornets will result in his first NBA playoff appearance.