Big Easy Buzz Blog - February 10, 2012 postgame: Blazers 94, Hornets 86

Friday, February 10, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
Blazers (15-12), Hornets (4-23)

It was over when… the Hornets committed a turnover with 23 seconds remaining, trailing 90-84. The Trail Blazers inbounded to Jamal Crawford, a great foul shooter who sank a pair of free throws to put the game out of reach. It was another frustrating defeat for New Orleans, its eighth consecutive loss. The final two minutes were particularly difficult to accept, because after cutting the deficit to two points, the hosts committed a pair of unnecessary fouls that allowed Portland to keep NOLA at arm’s length.

Hornets MVP: With a group of reporters waiting for him in the locker room, Trevor Ariza took a deep breath, an exhale that appeared to signify his frustration – not with the media, but with the team’s ongoing tough times. Ariza did everything he could to try to stop the losing streak, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds, five assists and two steals, but it wasn’t enough. The small forward staked NOLA to a 46-42 halftime advantage by scoring 15 points, almost exclusively on aggressive drives to the rim.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Overall, Al-Farouq Aminu had one of his best games of the season, an encouraging performance that included 12 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes of action. Four of his boards came at the offensive end, where he had a dunk and two putback scores in the first half. He also drilled a timely three-pointer that cut NOLA’s deficit to 86-84 with 48 seconds remaining. However, he fouled Raymond Felton seconds later, leading Felton to drill a pair of free throws and make it a two-possession game. The Hornets didn’t score again until Marco Belinelli’s layup with 17 ticks left.

The buzz on… second-half woes. If you've watched every game this season, this won't come as a surprise, but the Hornets are now a stunning 1-13 in games decided by single digits, with so many games coming down to the fourth quarter or the final few minutes. Despite having the NBA’s second-worst record, entering Friday’s games New Orleans was 24th out of 30 teams in the league in scoring differential, at minus 6.1 points per game. There are six teams behind the Hornets in that category, including Toronto, New Jersey, Sacramento, Detroit, Washington and Charlotte. The Raptors, Nets, Kings and Pistons all have at least twice as many wins as the Hornets. If it seems like the third quarter is particularly problematic for New Orleans, that’s probably because it has been. According to, the third quarter is by far the worst period for the Hornets, at an average of minus 4.3 points per game. That ranks last in the NBA. The Hornets are the 24th-best club in the fourth quarter, while ranking 19th in the first quarter and 18th in the second.

Shootaround: Feb. 10 vs. Blazers

Updates from this morning’s shootaround in the New Orleans Arena:

• Another day, another piece of news related to a Hornets injury. After returning to action for just one game, Wednesday vs. Chicago, point guard Jarrett Jack will not able to play Friday vs. Portland due to the same knee issue. “It may be a flare-up or something like that, but he didn’t re-injure it,” Hornets head coach Monty Williams explained.

• As a result of Jack’s absence, along with the absences of Eric Gordon (knee), Carl Landry (knee) and Jason Smith (concussion), New Orleans will only have 10 players available against the Trail Blazers. “That’s the way it’s been this year,” Williams said of being shorthanded. “We just have to not make excuses and try to go after it. We should be used to this. We’ve dealt with it all year, so it’s not like ‘Oh my.’ It’s ‘Let’s rock and roll.’ Whoever gets their opportunity, they’ve got to go out there and expect to do well. They can’t go out there thinking you’re in a tough spot.”

• Williams said Donald Sloan will see some playing time, as the backup point guard tonight behind Vasquez. In essence, Sloan and Vasquez are the only players available who usually play the position. The rest of the healthy bodies include shooting guards Marco Belinelli and Xavier Henry; small forwards Trevor Ariza and Al-Farouq Aminu; power forwards Gustavo Ayon and Lance Thomas; and centers Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman.

• Vasquez will try to build on his encouraging work in his first three starts. He’s averaging 16.7 points and 7.7 assists in those games. This morning Vasquez said his focus as a first-stringer is to get his teammates involved and set them up for open shots. “I want to go out and get 12 or 13 assists,” the second-year pro said of one of his objectives Friday. “That is my job. That is what I look for, to get guys around me better. I’m not looking to score. I’m trying to get guys like (Emeka Okafor), Trevor Ariza and the team better around me.”