Thornton expects to play vs. Celtics

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

When Chris Paul was sidelined for an extended period for the second time this season on Jan. 29, most objective analysts believed the Hornets might fall out of the playoff race. Although the past two weeks haven’t been great from a win-loss standpoint – New Orleans is 3-4 – the Hornets continue to show signs that they’ll be able to stick around in the West postseason chase, even if the three-time All-Star point guard misses another month or so.

Tonight’s victory was perhaps the best illustration of the Hornets’ capability to compete while lacking their best player. Behind another mostly positive performance by fill-in starter Darren Collison, the Hornets (28-25) beat one of the NBA's best teams.

Collison registered 25 points and nine assists – he did commit a staggering 10 turnovers, but most of those were due to his aggressiveness, not careless mistakes – while Peja Stojakovic continued his recent surge. Stojakovic drained four three-pointers among his 20 points, his third time with 20 points or more in the past four games.

“We’re going to give (Collison) the next few days off,” joked Hornets coach Jeff Bower, whose team heads into a stretch of no games until a week from tonight. “The All-Star break is coming at a good time. Everyone is going to have a chance to recharge.”

The Hornets trailed by 12 at halftime against the 2008 NBA champions, but turned up their defensive performance from there, allowing just 30 points after intermission. New Orleans rallied to win after trailing by double figures for the 11th time this season.

“I love their resiliency,” Bower said. “I love the fact that we’ve become a hardened group of players.”

For more from players and coaches, click on the NEWS/Postgame Quotes tab from postgame: Hornets 93, Celtics 85

After putting up dazzling numbers in six starts, shooting guard Marcus Thornton has missed the past three games due to soreness in his lower back, the result of a hard fall to the floor in the Oklahoma City game a week ago. While it’s not 100 percent certain, the rookie from LSU said at shootaround this morning that he expects to return to action tonight vs. Boston (7 p.m., New Orleans Arena).

Thornton has averaged 19.7 points as a starter, shooting 47.1 percent from three-point range.

“I’m playing,” said Thornton, who felt fine during a workout yesterday. “I’ve done all the rehab and it’s feeling better.”

Morris Peterson has started each of the past three games, scoring exactly eight points in every contest. He has averaged 23.3 minutes in those starts.

Tonight marks the final game prior to the All-Star break for the Hornets (27-25), who have not had more than one off day between games since Dec. 31-Jan. 1.