Talk all you want about the Hornets' need to pick up the scoring void during David West's absence, but this defeat in Minnesota didn't have a lot to do with that end of the floor. The Hornets turned in a quality offensive performance despite missing West, Tyson Chandler and Hilton Armstrong. The problem was defense. New Orleans (26-14) watched its three-game winning streak come to an end after giving up too many open looks to the Timberwolves, who showed why they've been much better lately after a poor start to 2008-09.
Minnesota shot a scorching 51 percent from the floor and went 10-for-21 from three-point range. New Orleans has often outplayed opponents during the fourth quarter of close games over the past 1 1/2 seasons, but not tonight. The hosts outscored the Hornets 37-27 over the final 12 minutes, with sub Rodney Carney (15 second-half points in 19 total minutes) going on a pivotal scoring binge.
The final score was slightly misleading, because it was anyone's game with two minutes left. But the Wolves' lead quickly expanded from two points to 109-101 at 1:29 after Randy Foye bagged a pair of three-pointers on consecutive Minnesota possessions.
Despite the defeat, this was a relatively positive night for several Hornets who have stepped into larger roles as a result of the frontcourt injuries:
Sean Marks made his third straight start and was solid. The New Zealand native finished with 10 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes. He started quickly offensively but missed on his last few jumpers.
Morris Peterson did about as much as he could statistically in eight minutes of action, but was foul prone in the first half. Mo Pete had eight points on 3-for-3 shooting, including two treys.
We saw Ryan Bowen on the floor for the first time since Dec. 25. He played so well Byron Scott had Bowen on the court during the final few minutes of crunch time, along with Chris Paul, Rasual Butler, Peja Stojakovic and James Posey (24 points, 7-for-11 three-point shooting). Bowen tallied four points and two steals in 16 minutes, while providing his usual all-over-the-gym intensity.
Julian Wright was relatively quiet in nine minutes, scoring two points and blocking one shot. The best stat on this night for JuJu was the teams plus-9 with him on the floor.
Melvin Elys second straight start was ruined by foul trouble. He picked up four fouls in only 13 minutes, including two personals in the first 3:59 of the game. Ely scored six points and grabbed four boards in his brief stints.