Five Observations: Hornets 123, SuperSonics 92

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

New Orleans (26-12) opened its five-game homestand by rolling to a 31-point victory over Seattle (9-29), posting its highest scoring output of the season. The previous best was 120 points in an overtime victory at Memphis. The Hornets were never really threatened, building a 19-point edge by halftime. Six different Hornets reached double figures in scoring, led by Peja Stojakovic's 23 points. David West (19 points, 11 rebounds), Jannero Pargo (18 points, 3-for-3 treys), Tyson Chandler (14 points, 21 rebounds), Bobby Jackson (13 points, 3-for-4 treys) and Chris Paul (12 points, 11 assists) also joined in the fun. Five observations after the Hornets capped a 3-0 season-series sweep over the SuperSonics:

1) This was exactly what the Hornets want to see on this homestand.
New Orleans is now 11-7 at home this season, but on paper at least, would seem to have a decent chance in the next week-plus to improve upon that record considerably. This five-game homestand includes four opponents with losing records (Seattle, Charlotte, Milwaukee and the Clippers), along with Portland. By blowing out the SuperSonics, the reserves got to see a lot of playing time, which hopefully results in improved confidence from individuals and as a collective group. In turn, Byron Scott was able to reduce his starters' minutes, something that needs to happen with so many games remaining in the regular season. Chandler logged 37 minutes, but none of the other first-stringers played more than 30 on Wednesday.

2) Did Scott's sometimes-harsh public criticism spark the bench?
One of the interesting things I've noticed since Day 1 about the Hornets' fourth-year head coach is that – unlike many of his colleagues – he does not hesitate to voice his displeasure about players to the media. Some coaches sugar-coat and tip toe around negative play by even their 12th man, but Scott has consistently "called out" Hornets players if they are not performing up to expectations.

After a third straight encouraging outing by the bench – the reserves combined for 52 points on 20-for-34 shooting – Scott indicated that some of the comments he made about his reserves may have helped yield better results.

"There are not a whole lot of athletes who like to be embarrassed," Scott said of his recent persistent criticism of the backups. "Athletes have a lot of pride in themselves, so when you embarrass them by saying, 'I'll play the starters 40 minutes if I have to,' that's a shot at (the reserves).

"I think they understood that. Sometimes they take that to heart. The last three games guys have played very well… They've got to continue to learn how to play as a second unit, because a lot of times they're not in the game with starters."

3) Don't mess with Tyson Chandler's rebounding stats!
The 7-foot-1 center appeared to be on his way to a career-best night in the rebounding department when he had 17 boards at halftime (his NBA single-game high is 23). But there were a couple humorous sequences in the second half when another Hornet pulled down a defensive rebound that Chandler (21 rebounds) had a chance to grab. He jokingly glared at Stojakovic after one such play, causing Stojakovic to laugh as he ran up the court.

So Peja, do the Hornets' coaches need to sit down with Tyson and have a little talk about the importance of sharing with others?

"Actually I think they're probably going to talk to ME," Peja said, laughing. "They're going to say, 'Let him rebound! Keep him happy!' " Chandler jokingly told Stojakovic that he needs to stick with what he does best and not infringe upon Chandler's territory.

"I had to get on him a little bit," Chandler said, grinning. "I told him, 'I don't get in your way on three-pointers, so don't get in my way on rebounds.' "

4) The buzz on… Peja Stojakovic.
One of the biggest question marks everyone wrote about nationally entering this Hornets season was the health of the 6-foot-10 small forward, who appeared in only 13 games in 2006-07 due to his back injury. Through 38 games this season, however, he has only missed five contests, as good a stat as any to help explain why New Orleans has exceeded all outside expectations for what this team may be able to accomplish.

"I am very happy that the games I did miss this season, it wasn't because of my back," said Stojakovic, who was out briefly in December with a strained groin muscle. "(The back injury) was my concern too before the season started. Hopefully I can stay injury-free. I just want to keep working and hopefully my confidence will start getting better and I will be more comfortable on the court."

Stojakovic has had stretches of inconsistency this season shooting-wise, but overall you've got to be extremely pleased with his production. He's been among the NBA's leaders in free throws and three-point percentage, and he's given Paul a crucial additional option to go to in the halfcourt offense.

5) The buzz on… Bobby Jackson. A third straight excellent game by the 6-foot-1 combo guard is cause for optimism that his early-season shooting woes are behind him. He's never been a great spot-up perimeter shooter, even during his heyday in Sacramento, but no one thought he would struggle with his touch as much as he did over the first 30-plus games of the season.

He's now gone 18-for-25 during the current three-game winning streak, including 11-for-15 from the three-point arc. It's hard to imagine the bench breaking out of its previous woes without continued strong performances from the 34-year-old, the team's oldest player and most experienced pro.



SuperSonics open five-game Hornets homestand


Seattle (9-28) is the guest tonight at the Arena, with New Orleans (25-12) attempting to win its third straight. For all Hornets home games this season like tonight's Western Conference matchup, I'll be providing updates in our Courtside Live blog.


To get ready for the game, you can check out Hornets.com's Rival Report, with SuperSonics analysis from their site's writer, Kevin Pelton. In return, I visited SuperSonics.com as a guest to answer a handful of questions about the Hornets. Also, Bob Licht gives us his perspective on the Hornets' season so far in our monthly chat with the play-by-play broadcaster.


In addition to calling tonight's game on Cox Sports TV (pregame 6:30), Bob has been a busy man lately, writing a recent feature article for Hornets.com on David West and explaining why Chris Paul has been the NBA's top point guard in 2007-08.