Anyone who wondered what the Hornets might look like without Chris Paul on the floor got an eyeful in the final quarter of tonight's loss. It wasn't pretty. New Orleans led by 17 when Paul (strained right groin) was forced to leave the game. From there, the Trail Blazers went on a 42-17 run to erase a significant deficit.
Pauls injury outlook was uncertain after the game. Byron Scott said he would speak with Hornets trainer Terry Kofler to try to determine the severity of the injury.
"We still have to wait and see tomorrow what Terry says about the injury," Scott said. "And just go from there.
I think the one thing we did when (Paul) got hurt, we forgot we still had a game to play. Our concern was wondering if he was OK. But we still had a game to finish out. All of a sudden, Portland started to smell blood and play aggressively. We took two steps back.
The players were probably a little shell-shocked, that Chris was going straight to the locker room.
Up until Pauls injury, New Orleans (28-17) appeared well on its way to a surprisingly one-sided victory. Portland (30-17) was extremely sloppy, committing turnovers at a steady rate, while misfiring on most of its looks at the basket. All of a sudden, though, the Trail Blazers looked like a different team following CP3s exit. Jerryd Bayless (19 points, 11 in fourth quarter) and Travis Outlaw (16 points, 8 in fourth quarter) sparked a huge fourth quarter that was spearheaded primarily by Blazer backups.
(Portland) got whatever they wanted in the fourth quarter, Scott said. Thats where the game was lost, on the defensive end. They scored 38 points in the fourth quarter and got whatever they wanted.
Meanwhile, the Hornets tallied only five buckets in the final stanza and a couple of those were after Portland went into dont-foul-no-matter-what defensive mode while holding the lead in the final minute.
Scott: We got stagnant. We kind of just threw it in to D West and everyone kind of stood around to see if he could do it. But the offensive end isnt why we lost the game. We lost it because we just didn't guard on the defensive end.
To no ones surprise, the New Orleans locker room was extremely quiet after the game, based on the combination of the fourth-quarter collapse and concern over Pauls injury. The truth is that although a Paul absence to injury would require other players to make larger contributions in his stead, the team has needed that even when its All-Star point guard was healthy and producing at an extraordinarily high level.
Were going to have go away from the pick-and-roll a little bit, West said, when asked by a reporter hypothetically how the Hornets will adjust if Paul misses Wednesdays game vs. Chicago. Were going to have to change the way we play. More guys are going to have to get involved.
The Hornets dropped to fifth place in the Western Conference after being leapfrogged in the standings by Portland. New Orleans dropped its third straight game for the first time since Feb. 25 of last year. Speaking of last season, one of the most obvious differences so far between the Southwest Division-title team of 2007-08 and this one has been the recent lengthy list of injuries. Health also was reason No. 1 why the Hornets missed the playoffs in 2006-07 with a 39-43 record.
Weve just hit a stretch where guys cant stay healthy, West said. Hopefully CP can bounce back from this; we dont know (how severe) it is. Sometimes you have this in the course of an NBA season.
I just feel badly, Peja Stojakovic said, referring to Pauls injury and tonights defeat. Because we were up about 20 points. We made bad decisions on both ends of the floor. Portland took advantage of that.