Hornets (28-16), Hawks (28-16)
It was over when
New Orleans built a commanding 70-45 lead through three quarters, causing Monty Williams to rest his starters (other than first-time starter Quincy Pondexter) the entire fourth period. The Hornets continued the complete domination by scoring the first 11 points of the final stanza, creating a do-not-adjust-your-set margin of 81-45. The Atlanta final tally was nearly the lowest output by any NBA team all season.
Hornets MVP: You couldve selected just about anyone in a New Orleans uniform during the teams most impressive wire-to-wire performance of the season (the previous largest victory margin was 29 points vs. Utah on Dec. 17). Since thats the case, lets give some credit to Pondexter, who was a late fill-in in the starting lineup for Trevor Ariza (ankle tendonitis). The rookie small forward set the tone for an energetic Hornets performance with active defensive play and aggressive offense in the first few minutes, scoring a quick five points and handing out a few pinpoint passes. Pondexter said he found out hed be starting just an hour or so before tip-off. The Hornets were plus-29 with the University of Washington product on the floor.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: D.J. Mbenga hadnt appeared in a game since December, but like Pondexter, he seemed to be all over the floor when he checked into the game. Mbenga, whose larger role was partly due to Aaron Gray being sidelined due to injury, finished with six points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 22 minutes of action.
The buzz on
a historic defensive performance. New Orleans nearly broke the franchise record for fewest points allowed in one game against Atlanta. The record is 56 points, set in December 2000 vs. Miami. The Hawks were held to 17 or fewer points in each quarter, scoring a few late baskets to avoid becoming an ignominious new entry in the Hornets media guide. New Orleans entered Friday ranked second in the league in points per game allowed at 92.2, but after 48 minutes of stellar defense, that averaged dropped all the way to 91.4.
A few more impressive defensive numbers from Friday's game: Atlanta shot only 29 percent from the field and was limited to just 11 free throws. The Hawks have often been a difficult team for the Hornets to match up against, based on their size and athleticism, but NOLA did a masterful job of forcing Atlanta into long stretches where the hosts settled for jump shots.
Blog question of the night: What mid-term grade does Pondexter deserve? A rare first-round pick who spent four years playing college basketball, the 6-foot-6 small forward has seen his playing time increase gradually, even before starting in place of Ariza on Friday.