Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 89, Cavaliers 84

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (8-25), Cavaliers (13-18)

It was over when… Jarrett Jack sank a 12-footer from the left side of the lane, giving New Orleans an 83-76 lead with 27 seconds remaining. The Hornets entered the All-Star break on a positive note, picking up their fifth road victory of 2011-12 and fifth over an Eastern Conference opponent. The team will have the next several days off, prior to visiting Chicago next Tuesday.

Hornets MVP: It wasn’t the most efficient performance (25 field-goal attempts, four turnovers), but Chris Kaman’s contributions in the paint were perhaps the biggest single advantage the Hornets exploited against the Cavaliers. The 7-footer used his size and knack for the ball on the offensive end to finish with 21 points and 13 rebounds (including six on O). Kaman’s 15 first-half points helped stake New Orleans to a 50-43 halftime lead.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: An extremely easy choice, as Jack played starter’s minutes (30) and accounted for 16 of the bench’s 26 points, as well as seven of the unit’s 15 rebounds. The backup point guard also was huge in the fourth quarter, dropping in nine points out of NOLA’s 20 in the stanza.

The buzz on… Hornets center. In a sadly fitting turn of events during what’s been a difficult season for New Orleans, the team’s ultra-durable starting center, Emeka Okafor, is now sidelined due to injury. As a result, the player who was briefly on the trading block, Chris Kaman, has replaced Okafor in the first unit. A Western Conference All-Star just two years ago, Kaman did not play well early in the season, but as of late has contributed several excellent performances. The 7-footer has tallied double-digit points every game since Feb. 6, when he returned to the floor vs. Sacramento. During NOLA’s three-game winning streak, the former Los Angeles Clipper averaged 19.0 points and 10.3 rebounds. Meanwhile, in the 27 games Okafor played prior to his recent knee injury, his numbers are slightly down in several categories. He is playing fewer minutes per game than last season (28.9 after 31.8 in 2010-11) with a comparable drop in scoring, rebounding and blocks. However, he has shown improved shooting touch, making a much larger chunk of his baskets on mid-range jumpers. He appears to be getting significantly fewer easy baskets than he did in his previous two seasons with the Hornets, perhaps partly due to the departure of Chris Paul and David West, as well as the club’s constantly changing lineups and shorthanded roster in 2011-12. Recent 10-day signee Solomon Jones has picked up the backup center minutes behind Kaman while Okafor recuperates. The team is hopeful Okafor will be able to return as soon as next week, following the All-Star break.