Hornets.com postgame: Lakers 101, Hornets 95

Saturday, February 5, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Lakers (35-16), Hornets (32-20)

It was over when… Marco Belinelli’s off-balance three-point attempt rolled off the rim with a few seconds remaining; it was rebounded by Pau Gasol, who dribbled out the clock on his 34-point, 10-rebound performance. The Hornets’ six-game home winning streak came to an end on a night when they were more shorthanded than they’ve been all season, with Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Jason Smith all sidelined.

Hornets MVP: On a night when his sneaker company is hosting a Jordan Brand party in New Orleans, Chris Paul tried to will the Hornets to a win that would’ve made it a celebratory event, finishing with 21 points and 15 assists. The stellar showing included 8-for-11 shooting and a dazzling third-quarter stretch in which he drained three three-pointers over a three-minute span. Paul’s long distance shot-making was one of the most aggressive we’ve seen him be lately, although he still took only the third-most shots Saturday (behind David West and Marcus Thornton) overall.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: David Andersen has provided a nice boost on offense over the past week-plus. Three days after his superb game against Oklahoma City, the Australian big man made each of his first five shots, part of an 11-point, six-rebound outing in only 21 minutes against the Lakers. The 6-foot-11 reserve was billed as an excellent offensive player prior to his rookie season with Houston in 2009-10, but didn’t shoot particularly well, at 43.2 percent from the field. Andersen has been performing more like the player many expected recently, going 18-for-30 (60 percent) over the past five games.

The buzz on… making up for the absence of key players. Although talk of a “moral victory” will often get a dismissive wave from players and coaches around the NBA, there were more positives from a Hornets loss Saturday than in perhaps any defeat this season. Andersen and Aaron Gray (10 points, 10 rebounds, fourth career double-double) were two prime illustrations of how the Hornets have been able to rely on just about everyone to contribute at various points. New Orleans was extremely shorthanded against the two-time NBA champions, but was tied with 3:43 remaining.

“I love this team,” Monty Williams praised after the defeat. “I love our guys. I love the way we compete and the way we approach the game and practice, the way we are with each other. It shows in a game like this. The way we came out tonight, I don’t think many people thought we’d be in this game. I’m just being frank and honest. I felt like we were playing against so much tonight. We don’t use any excuses, and I think our guys have bought into that. If you have an NBA jersey on, you have a chance to win the game.”

Early in the regular season, Williams was taking an unconventional approach of commonly using 11 or 12 players in his rotation. Though he’s cut back somewhat on that over the past few weeks, he still generally relies on more different players than the majority of NBA coaches. When multiple players are missing like Saturday, that strategy can yield dividends.

“You see us in practice – we spend a lot of extra time drilling what we do as a team,” Willie Green said, when asked about the contributions of players such as Gray and Andersen. “Everyone is ready to come in and play.” “They’re stepping up and earning minutes,” Williams said of several players taking advantage of opportunities. “(The result is) I think we’ll be deeper, and we’ll have more confidence.”

Blog question of the night: Which somewhat seldom-used Hornets player was most impressive to you Saturday - Andersen, Gray or D.J. Mbenga (season-best 8 points in 18 minutes)?