Peterson questionable, Songaila nearing return

Friday, February 26, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Morris Peterson, who has started the past nine games at shooting guard, is being listed as questionable to play in tonight’s ESPN game against Orlando. Peterson sustained a strained left hamstring four minutes into Wednesday’s game at Milwaukee.

The Michigan State product participated in shootaround and will be evaluated as the day progresses. If he cannot start, Marcus Thornton will move back into the starting five for the first time since Feb. 3.

“I’m feeling better today,” said Peterson, who underwent an MRI yesterday that came up negative. “It’s a mild strain. It’s not as sore as it was yesterday. If it feels better, I’m going to try to (play) tonight.”

Meanwhile, Darius Songaila (ankle) also participated in shootaround. Injured in the first game after the All-Star break on Feb. 17 vs. Utah, Songaila has been ruled out for tonight’s game. However, the 6-foot-9 frontcourt reserve said he is hoping to return to action soon.

“I’m getting close,” Songaila said.

Without Peterson and Songaila, the Hornets would be down to nine available players against Orlando and a bench consisting of James Posey, Julian Wright, Sean Marks and Aaron Gray. postgame: Hornets 100, Magic 93

Just when you think the Hornets might be headed for a third straight defeat and a damaging losing streak, they come up with a win like this, a victory few could’ve seen coming. Not when the Hornets fell behind by 18 in the second half. Not when that deficit came against the defending Eastern Conference champion Magic. Not when previously seldom-used Hornets backup center Aaron Gray ends up taking several of the biggest shots with the outcome at stake in the fourth quarter.

In an improbable outcome, New Orleans (31-28) compiled one of the best comebacks in team history and arguably its finest victory of the season, rallying to overtake Orlando (38-20).

During a season in which the Hornets have often been shorthanded and are currently playing without their three-time All-Star, it’s been vital that players who’ve sat for extended stretches are ready to contribute at a moment’s notice. Against Orlando and All-Star center Dwight Howard, the Hornet who was needed to fill a void was Gray, who had three DNPs in the previous five games.

Gray, acquired in a January trade, scored six points and grabbed five rebounds in the fourth quarter alone, while helping limit Howard to just two fourth-period points. Howard had terrorized the Hornets up to that point, racking up a ton of dunks en route to 24 points.

“Like I said (in a postgame interview with Hornets radio), Aaron Gray is my MVP this game,” Marcus Thornton said. “Howard was playing great, but Aaron came in and played good defense on him, and got Dwight frustrated the rest of the game. That’s what we needed and that’s what enabled us to get back into the game.”

While Gray delivered on defense in the clutch, David West supplied the offense all game. West finished with 40 points and 10 rebounds, which was just the third 40-10 game in Hornets franchise history (all three were by West, all since January 2009).

“I think he understood the importance of this game,” Morris Peterson assessed of West’s monstrous performance. “As a pro, he always comes ready to play. When he has nights like that, you’ve just got to ride his back. He took us to the promised land, making big plays and big shots. Even when he was tired, he was out there playing hard. With one of your best players, that’s what you need night in and night out.”

For more on this game from players and coaches, click on NEWS/Postgame Quotes on