Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 85, Raptors 81

Monday, January 17, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (26-16), Raptors (13-28)

It was over when... David West sank two free throws with 15 seconds left, after he'd also drilled the go-ahead jumper, giving New Orleans a two-possession advantage. The Hornets won their fifth straight game overall. New Orleans is also 10 games over .500 for the first time since an 11-1 start.

Hornets MVP: Although he probably won’t receive much mention for the NBA’s leaguewide award, Emeka Okafor has been one of the most improved players in 2010-11. Not that he was a bad player last season, but by his standards, he never seemed to get into any rhythm. He’s been outstanding lately, but Monday’s performance was even more noteworthy for Okafor’s 12 offensive rebounds, which tied a franchise record. The 6-foot-10 center has played so well for such an extended stretch that it’s no longer accurate to say he’s on a hot streak. This just might be the way he’s going to play this season. The second-year Hornet finished with 17 points and a season-high 16 rebounds.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Playing against his most recent former team (he’s also played for Portland and Indiana), Jarrett Jack stepped in on an off night scoring-wise for Chris Paul (1-for-8 shooting). Jack finished with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting. Having been a member of three previous teams, it’s relatively frequent that Jack faces former teammates (for instance, the Hornets play against Toronto, Indiana and Portland a total of 8 times this season).

“You ask anybody, when you face your old team, you want to have a pretty good performance,” Jack said. “But for us and guys off the bench, we’ve got to have carryover. We can’t just hang our hat on (playing well recently). You’re only as good as your last game or last possession.”

It appeared in the fourth quarter that Paul might not return to action, but he was inserted with about 4:00 remaining. Monty Williams explained: "We gave him an extended rest because Jarrett had it going. In a game like this, playing against his former team, you know a guy may have something special in the tank for that team. What I love about Chris, he sat on that bench and cheered for Jarrett just like it was Jarrett sitting on that bench and cheering for him. His attitude didn’t change because he’s about winning games."

The buzz on… winning games, somehow, some way. With Monday’s low-scoring victory, New Orleans won for the seventh time this season while scoring in the 70s or 80s. It was also the second straight game that the Hornets did so, beating Charlotte and Toronto despite averaging just 86.5 points in the pair of contests. By comparison, New Orleans did not accomplish the same feat once in the entire 2009-10 regular season. The lowest point total that yielded a Hornets victory a season ago was 91.

“There are going to be nights when guys aren’t going (well offensively),” West said. “But our defense… we’re playing well together. When someone isn’t playing well, there is someone else there to pick up the slack.”

Blog question of the night: What mid-term grade would you give frontcourt reserve Jason Smith? By the way, Smith will be our guest on Hornets.com tomorrow for a live player chat. Smith will be online with us following the team’s Tuesday practice in the New Orleans Arena, so get your questions ready.