By the numbers: Thornton 18th in points per minute

Thursday, March 4, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Given how competitive the race is in the Western Conference, a team can’t afford to go on a multi-game losing streak. Unfortunately for the Hornets, Wednesday’s stinging defeat vs. Memphis was their third straight loss. Combined with Portland’s three-game winning streak, New Orleans (31-31) is now five games out of eighth place (the Hornets also trail seventh-place San Antonio by five games).

If Portland (37-27) plays .500 basketball the rest of the way, it will finish 46-36, a record New Orleans would only be able to match by going at least 15-5 over the final 20 games of the regular season. In other words, the Hornets must rapidly reverse their recent fortunes in order to maintain any realistic hope of getting back in the race.

New Orleans is just 3-6 since the All-Star break, a nine-game stretch that has been highlighted by the continued development of rookie guards Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton. Let’s take a look at some of the interesting numbers related to the Hornets’ current 10-man rotation. Among the 13 players on the overall roster, Chris Paul (knee) and Sean Marks (shoulder) are injured, while Ike Diogu (knee) is out for the season.

STARTERS
Darren Collison
: 13
Consecutive games in which the rookie from UCLA has played at least 40 minutes. By comparison, five straight games is the longest streak in which Chris Paul has played 40-plus minutes throughout his entire five-year NBA career.
Morris Peterson: 3-0
The Hornets’ record when the shooting guard tallies at least 10 points. Lately Mo Pete has been in the midst of a slump from the perimeter, going 1-for-9 from three-point range over the past six games.
Peja Stojakovic: 13
Consecutive games in which the small forward reached double-digit scoring, from Jan. 27 through Feb. 21. He has been in double figures each of the past three games as well, but the Hornets are 0-3. Like the other wing starter Peterson, Stojakovic’s long-range accuracy has dipped, at 6-for-26 in the past six games. NOLA is 1-5 during that stretch.
David West: 5
Consecutive seasons in which the two-time All-Star raised his scoring average from the previous season, a streak that will end in 2009-10, barring an incredibly prolific close to the regular season. His 2009-10 average of 18.3 points is exactly the same as in 2006-07. West was runner-up in the 2005-06 Most Improved Player vote, behind Phoenix’s Boris Diaw.
Emeka Okafor: 12.1
Rebounds per game the UConn product must average (assuming he plays in all 20 remaining games) in order to up his current average from 9.3 to 10.0. He would need to grab a total of 242 rebounds in order to extend his streak to six straight seasons of averaging a double-double.

RESERVES
Marcus Thornton
: 18
The LSU shooting guard’s ranking among all 400-plus NBA players in points per 48 minutes. Thornton averages 26.6 points per 48 minutes, which leads the Hornets. Interestingly, among the 17 players currently ranked ahead of him in that category, 12 of them were selected to the 2010 All-Star Game in Dallas. Thornton also tops all rookies in this statistic.
Darius Songaila: 10
Number of consecutive appearances, prior to only playing 15 minutes Wednesday vs. Memphis, in which the Wake Forest product had logged more than 20 minutes. Jeff Bower has relied more heavily on Songaila as the season has progressed. Before that 10-game streak, the most consecutive 20-minute games for Songaila this season had only been two.
James Posey: 2
Times this season the Xavier (Ohio) product has played fewer than 10 minutes in a game. Ironically, the 10 minutes he logged Wednesday vs. Memphis was his third-shortest appearance of 2009-10, yet Posey was on the floor for a few of the game’s most pivotal plays, including the game-ending turnover.
Julian Wright: 1,964
Career minutes for the third-year small forward from Kansas. By comparison, Collison has played 1,346 this season alone, while Thornton has logged 1,193.
Aaron Gray: 2
Times in the last 365 days that the Pittsburgh product has played 20-plus minutes in an NBA game. Both of those instances took place since Friday, including the win over Orlando and the loss to Memphis. Prior to that, Gray’s last outing of more than 20 minutes came on Jan. 23, 2009, when he played 22 minutes for Chicago against Toronto.