Bulls (36-16), Hornets (33-23)
It was over when
Chicago's Luol Deng sank a mid-range jumper to give the Bulls a 95-85 lead with 1:20 remaining. Playing against a quality Eastern Conference opponent for a second straight night, the Hornets were dominated in the fourth quarter en route to their third consecutive home defeat. New Orleans lost for only the second time this season in the Hive against an Eastern foe.
Hornets MVP: This was Marcus Thornton at his best dashing in front of Bulls defenders for layups; getting out on fast breaks for scoring chances (including nearly drawing two clear-path fouls); drilling three-pointers from various spots on the court. Thornton finished with 24 points, a season high for him. Overall, the LSU product displayed the type of explosive and multidimensional scoring that the Hornets mostly lack from their wing players. You can debate for hours whether Thornton deserves more playing time and many have but theres no doubt that when hes on his game offensively, hes a threat to put together a 24-points-in-27-minutes game like Saturday.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Jarrett Jack tallied 10 points on 3-for-7 shooting, while only playing 13 minutes. Between Thornton and Jack, the Hornets got plenty of point production from their reserve unit; the stumbling block Saturday was more that the starting five didnt fare well. New Orleans five starters were a combined 15-for-38 from the field and only David West (17 points) and Chris Paul (15 points) cracked double digits, but even that high-scoring pair was held under their normal output. Hornets players gave credit to the Bulls defense for holding the hosts to just 35 second-half points. Thornton said Chicago may be the best defensive team NOLA has seen in 2010-11.
The buzz on
Chris Pauls mini-slump shooting the ball. For the fourth consecutive game, the four-time All-Star missed more than half of his attempts from the field, going 3-for-10 Saturday. During that four-game span, Paul is 16-for-47, which is 34 percent. Paul addressed his recent stretch after the game, saying, I shoot more shots before the game and the day before the game, but my rhythm gets off. Im missing everything I shoot at the rim. Ive got to keep shooting.
The only way (to get out of it is to keep working). The frustrating part is knowing that I can make those (close-range) shots. Somehow, some way Ive got to find a way to get some easy baskets. Teams get layups here and there against us, but very rarely do we get easy baskets.
Blog question of the night: What impact do you think the All-Star break will have on the Hornets? New Orleans has two games remaining on the West Coast this week, in Golden State and Portland, before getting a full week before their next contest, Feb. 23 vs. the Clippers on ESPN.