Hornets.com postgame: Kings 102, Hornets 96

Saturday, January 29, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Kings (12-33), Hornets (31-17)

It was over when… Sacramento scored six straight points, after New Orleans had cut its deficit to just two, giving the Kings a 102-94 lead in the final minute. The Hornets’ franchise record-tying 10-game winning streak came to an end in California’s capital, after the visitors trailed for virtually the entire game Saturday, not once holding a lead.

Hornets MVP: David West led New Orleans with 21 points on 8-for-21 shooting, including a couple mid-range jumpers in the fourth quarter that helped bring the Hornets to within two points late. Chris Paul had an excellent second half offensively, with 13 of his 19 points, but had a second straight rough turnover game, with five miscues.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Marcus Thornton had one of his most efficient games of the season, scoring 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting. Unfortunately with a chance to pull the Hornets within a point in the final minute, his three-point attempt bounded off the backboard. Overall though, Thornton lived up to how Hornets TV analyst Gil McGregor has been describing the second-year pro lately, saying “Marcus is instant offense – the only ingredient you have to add is the ball.”

The buzz on… Emeka Okafor’s offensive consistency. In another example of how the 6-foot-10 center is being allowed to play to his strengths compared to his Hornets debut in 2009-10, Okafor had three dunks among his 15 points Saturday. Over the 10-game winning streak, he scored nine points or more in all but one game – and that was the 41-point rout at Atlanta, when he only logged 24 minutes. While Okafor does possess some low-post skills, he’s been diving to the rim much more frequently and teammates are doing a commendable job of finding him as he cuts through the lane.

“We’ve put in different spacing schemes that allow him to get the ball closer to the basket,” Monty Williams explained recently. “He’s playing with a great point guard. I’d love to tell you I went into the lab and came up with all of this stuff, and moved the X’s (and O’s) around, but it certainly wasn’t all of that. Teams key on David (West) so much that it frees (Okafor) up to do his thing. That helps him a lot. He’s taken advantage of it. He’s worked his tail off to get those seals under the basket.”

Blog question of the night: What’s your mid-term assessment and grade of backup center Aaron Gray? The 7-footer is currently inactive due to injury but is expected back sometime in February.