Hornets (27-16), Grizzlies (19-23)
It was over when... Memphis star forward Rudy Gays 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 lets 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 whats 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 youre (doing that), you dont have your legs for offense. Its hard, I dont 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 thats 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 couldnt 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 cant draw that stuff up. For him to be in that position, I was just happy for him.
Thats what he does, Ariza said of Thorntons instant offense. Thats Marcus Thornton he comes in and gets buckets.
The buzz on
scoreboard watching 40-something games into the regular season. Although Hornets players certainly arent 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 Utahs 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 cant be lost on New Orleans players how much ground theyve gained lately in the standings.
Who wouldve believed a couple weeks ago that the Hornets would only be a half game behind Utah? Or just one game behind Dallas? The Hornets havent 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 its against the moribund Cavaliers its 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? Its been an unexpectedly eventful season for the second-year pro, who was one of the NBAs top 10 rookies (some would argue top 5) in 2009-10.