Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 97, Mavericks 92

Friday, March 2, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (9-27), Mavericks (21-16)

It was over when… Marco Belinelli drained the first of two free throws, giving the Hornets a two-possession advantage with 1.6 seconds remaining at 96-92. New Orleans posted an upset victory over the defending NBA champions, its first win after the All-Star break. The Hornets also registered their initial Southwest Division triumph in eight tries this season. Dallas is now 1-12 over the past five seasons in games played in New Orleans (including winless when Dirk Nowitzki plays).

Hornets MVP: Chris Kaman appeared well on his way to a career night when he poured in 13 points in the first eight minutes of the game. Kaman’s early offensive outburst sparked New Orleans to a 52-46 halftime edge. He cooled down as the game progressed but still finished with 20 points on 9-for-18 shooting from the field. He also grabbed 13 rebounds and severely outplayed Brendan Haywood (4 points, 7 rebounds). “Coach has really given me a chance to play,” Kaman said when asked about his five straight double-doubles. “I’ve proven myself for the past nine years. With time, I’m going to make mistakes, but overall I have pretty good success.”

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Xavier Henry could’ve easily been given the game’s MVP award after what was probably the best night of his brief two-year NBA career. The backup shooting guard eclipsed his career-high in scoring with 19 points, on 8-for-12 shooting from the field. He also grabbed four rebounds and had two steals and two assists. “I just went out and played hard and aggressively,” Henry explained. “We all wanted a win pretty badly. Everybody played hard and played great tonight… I knew we only had nine guys, with a lot of key guys out. I knew I would get the (playing) time because we only had nine guys.”

The buzz on… a lineup change in the backcourt. After starting at point guard the last several weeks, Greivis Vasquez was moved to the reserve unit, with Jarrett Jack shifting back to the starting job. Before the game, Monty Williams said it was inevitable that at some point this season Jack would be returning to the first string. In the postgame locker room, Jack acknowledged that after the Hornets had played well with Vasquez starting, it made sense for Williams to ride that lineup as long as he could while it was successful and producing victories. Williams also said prior to Friday’s game that he likes the combination of Vasquez and Gustavo Ayon, so Williams will try to get them on the floor together as much as possible. In the short term, that may mean taking Ayon out of games earlier in the first and third quarters, so that he can be back on the court when Vasquez enters. It’s uncertain what will happen in terms of Ayon’s role when other injured frontcourt players (Carl Landry, Jason Smith, Emeka Okafor) return from injury. Williams does not like to tell the media his starting-lineup changes until game time (partly to prevent opponents from knowing the information), so it remains to be seen what will happen when the Hornets are closer to full strength.

Shootaround: March 2 vs. Mavericks

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

• Although there was talk earlier this week that Friday’s game might mark the return of some of the Hornets’ injured players, Monty Williams said that none will suit up against the defending NBA champion Mavericks. Carl Landry (knee), Emeka Okafor (knee) and Jason Smith (concussion) will join Eric Gordon (knee) as players unavailable for duty, leaving Williams with a maximum of 10 guys.

• Trevor Ariza (illness) could potentially add to the shorthanded nature of the lineup against Dallas. “He’s sick,” Williams said. “He was sick the other night (Wednesday). He was probably running a fever and some other stuff, so it’s just a situation we’re dealing with. Any time you’re under the weather that way, it’s hard to play… But he’s done it before. There are a lot of times he’s not feeling well and still played, and I never said a word about it to (the media).”

• Smith addressed his lengthy absence for the first time with the media since prior to the All-Star break. The 7-foot power forward expressed concern that his condition has improved but is still preventing him from playing four weeks later. “I’m feeling better, just trying to take it day-by-day,” Smith said. “I’ve tried to give it a go a couple times, but it’s take a couple steps forward, then a couple back. But I’m in good spirits and just want to get back on the court as soon as I can.” The fourth-year pro said he’s been experiencing headaches, a symptom from his Feb. 4 concussion at Detroit, whenever he’s tried to use an elliptical machine, for example.

• Dirk Nowitzki (lower back tightness) is being listed as probable by the Mavericks. The All-Star power forward missed Dallas’ previous game in New Orleans this season. “As far as I’m concerned, Dirk is playing,” Williams said. Meanwhile, Delonte West is out and Lamar Odom is not with the team, according to the Mavs.