Wolves (12-39), Hornets (32-21)
It was over when
a mini-run and Hornets comeback attempt lost momentum with a little over a minute remaining. New Orleans had cut the lead to 100-90 but couldnt get any closer after two Jason Smith missed free throws (Smith is an 88 percent foul shooter) and an empty possession. The result was only the second time this season New Orleans has lost at home against a team that is currently below .500. The other such defeat was in January vs. Golden State. Since the 10-game winning streak, the Hornets have gone 1-5, with injuries factoring into the rough stretch.
Hornets MVP: Chris Paul, who called Mondays game one of the most disappointing losses of the season, totaled 17 points, six rebounds, 13 assists and four steals, but obviously took no consolation from his all-around game. (Minnesota is) a team with 12 wins, and two of them were against us, Paul said, after NOLA dropped to 0-2 against the Wolves this season. They were out there all rah-rah and talking junk and stuff, but I guess they deserved (the win) tonight.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Several reserves have provided the Hornets with a nice boost in recent games, but the unit was outplayed by the Timberwolves. Minny enjoyed a 47-34 advantage in bench scoring. The Hornets backups were highlighted by Willie Greens 11-point game on 3-for-6 shooting.
The buzz on
the Hornets needing maximum effort and production in order to win games. Dating all the way back to training camp, New Orleans head coach Monty Williams has stressed that his team cant win games on talent alone. Thats become even more true when the Hornets are shorthanded, playing without starters and defensive stalwarts Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. After Mondays loss, Williams said: Were an effort team. We have two guys who have a load of talent (Paul and David West). We have a guy (Okafor) who has a chance to be an All-Star someday (and Ariza). The other guys all have to (focus on giving) effort. They might not want to hear that, but thats just the way it is.
In other words, the Hornets cant get by without paying attention to detail and minimizing unnecessary mistakes. Williams cited one sequence Monday when Marco Belinelli drilled a three-pointer, but the shot was essentially negated because the Hornets failed to get back on defense, allowing the Timberwolves to get a fast-break layup at the other end. Those are the kinds of details that New Orleans cant allow to slip as the team tries to get to the All-Star break relatively unscathed without Okafor and Ariza.
"This is the second type of dip we've taken this year, in terms of winning a few games and then not being able to recover from one loss," West said, referring to the Hornets going 10-13 after their 8-0 start to 2010-11. "We've just been reeling ever since that game up in Sacramento."
Blog question of the night: How much of the teams recent stretch can be attributed to injuries? How much of the past week-plus is cause for genuine concern as the Hornets try to maintain the fifth-place status theyve held recently in the Western Conference?