Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 103, Grizzlies 102 (OT)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (27-16), Grizzlies (19-23)

It was over when... Memphis star forward Rudy Gay’s shot just before the buzzer bounced off the back of the rim. New Orleans completed a comeback after trailing by as many as 15 points in the second half. Marcus Thornton provided what proved to be the game-winning shot, a layup with 6 seconds to go in OT, after Memphis committed a costly turnover while trying to preserve its one-point lead.

Hornets MVP: David West (19 points, 11 rebounds) was the in-arena winner of this award, but let’s go all the way off the board here and tab Trevor Ariza, who came up with countless huge defensive plays in the fourth quarter and overtime. Ariza was just 2-for-12 from the field, continuing what’s been a down year for him at the offensive end, but his contributions on D continue to be huge for a team that has won several low-scoring games lately.

“Trevor gets a lot of flak for not having the kind of offensive season probably that he would like,” Monty Williams said. “But what people forget is he guards the best offensive player every night. If you’re (doing that), you don’t have your legs for offense. It’s hard, I don’t care who you are. Tonight he played 47 minutes and guarded one of the better small forwards in the league (Gay) and held him to 8-for-23 (shooting). What he does for our team is big.”

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Thornton entered the game in the third quarter to a standing ovation, something that’s been common for the LSU product and Baton Rouge native in New Orleans this season. He rapidly piled up points in the fourth quarter with 11, then added six more in overtime, for a 17-point performance in 22 minutes of action. In the game-winning sequence, he took a perfect bounce pass from Emeka Okafor and scored the go-ahead layup for a 103-102 edge.

“You couldn’t draw it up any better than that,” Williams said. “To be close to home, come in and help the hometown team, and hit the game-winning shot, you can’t draw that stuff up. For him to be in that position, I was just happy for him.”

“That’s what he does,” Ariza said of Thornton’s instant offense. “That’s Marcus Thornton – he comes in and gets buckets.”

The buzz on… “scoreboard watching” 40-something games into the regular season. Although Hornets players certainly aren’t preoccupied by it, a few of them were conversing in the postgame locker room about some of the surprising results of other NBA games Wednesday, such as Utah’s 103-95 defeat at New Jersey (as well as Dallas’ double-digit lead over the Lakers at that moment). Though they likely would downplay the significance of it, it can’t be lost on New Orleans players how much ground they’ve gained lately in the standings.

Who would’ve believed a couple weeks ago that the Hornets would only be a half game behind Utah? Or just one game behind Dallas? The Hornets haven’t always been perfect in recent games, but they keep winning. With only one national TV game scheduled in 2010-11 – and that one might get pulled because it’s against the moribund Cavaliers – it’s not clear whether many around the league have noticed. But if the Hornets can move ahead of several of their much more hyped and respected rivals, that soon will change.

Blog question of the night: What mid-term grade would you give Thornton? It’s been an unexpectedly eventful season for the second-year pro, who was one of the NBA’s top 10 rookies (some would argue top 5) in 2009-10.