Hornets (33-22), Magic (34-21)
It was over when
Aaron Gray pulled down a rebound off J.J. Redicks off-balance three-point attempt with five seconds remaining, as the Magic were unable to cut their six-point deficit in half. New Orleans ended its four-game losing streak, the longest such spell of 2010-11, by winning on the new home floor of one of the Eastern Conferences recent powers. The Hornets also completed a 2-0 sweep this season of the Magic.
Hornets MVP: Willie Green has often been described by Monty Williams and the media as steady and a key locker-room presence, but on Friday he was just plain valuable for what he did on the court. In his second start after taking over for Marco Belinelli at shooting guard, Green racked up a season-best 24 points on 10-for-20 shooting, including draining arguably the most important basket of the road win. With just two minutes remaining, the eight-year veteran connected on a high-degree-of-difficulty baseline jumper over Redick, giving the Hornets a two-possession lead.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: David Andersen continues to impress in his stints on the floor, this time scoring an efficient 10 points on 5-for-7 shooting. Although Andersen is officially only a second-year player in terms of NBA experience, an overlooked strength so far may be his savvy and basketball intelligence.
Andersen actually turned pro overseas in 1998, meaning the 30-year-old has been playing in high-pressure situations for over a dozen years now. Andersen is the oldest player on the Hornets roster by just two months over David West, but the Australian has a significant amount of past experience to draw upon in his second NBA season. Over the past 10 games, the 6-foot-11 reserve is a sparkling 29-for-47 from the field (61.7 percent).
The buzz on
Hack-a-Howard. In a move that is always debated around the NBA in the following days, the Hornets used the latter portion of the second quarter to intentionally send poor-shooting Orlando All-Star center Dwight Howard to the foul line. For the most part, the strategy worked, allowing New Orleans to maintain a nine-point halftime lead after Howard went 4-for-10 prior to intermission (he went 4-for-12 for the game).
Some teams have relied heavily in the past on the strategy, particularly against players such as Howard, Shaquille ONeal and Ben Wallace.
One small but noteworthy difference to the Hornets approach was that they waited until the final three minutes of the second period to begin fouling Howard. The risk of intentionally fouling a player early in a given quarter is that by quickly going over the team-foul limit, you pave the way for an opposing teams accurate free-throw shooters to take advantage of the penalty. However, by waiting until late in the second quarter Friday and immediately grabbing Howard, the Hornets ensured that the Magics final few possessions would consist entirely of one of the NBAs worst free-throw shooters firing twice from 15 feet.
It was unclear whether Howards eight misfires from the charity stripe affected Orlandos late-game offensive strategy, but Howard only attempted three shots from the field in the second half, after taking nine in the first. The athletic, frequent dunker went 8-for-12 overall on a 20-point night, a couple ticks below his season average of 22.5.
Blog question of the night: Where does the win at Orlando rank among New Orleans most important road victories of 2010-11? The Hornets have now beaten several teams that are locks to reach the 2011 NBA postseason and improved Friday to 13-15 away from the Big Easy.