It was over when Chris Paul sank two free throws with 21 seconds remaining, giving New Orleans a seven-point and three-possession advantage. The Hornets posted one of their most important victories of the season, ending a three-game losing streak. NOLA did it shorthanded, playing without Trevor Ariza (strained groin) as well as fellow starting forward David West, who sprained his left ankle just 3:42 into the first quarter. The Hornets also grabbed a 2-0 season-series edge over the Grizzlies, a potentially key tiebreaking factor.
Hornets MVP: Coming off a three-game stretch many called the worst of his decorated all-pro career, Chris Paul came out aggressively, burying multiple deep jumpers. He directed the Hornets attack all game, finishing with 23 points and 14 assists. Paul actually had to leave the game briefly due to a sprained ankle. When he walked into the locker room to get it re-taped, he saw the previously injured David West, who looked at Paul and said, Not you too!
The four-time All-Star point guard said of the shorthanded victory that it was the same thing weve been doing all season fighting through adversity. We have ups and downs. Its a good win for us, but now weve got to carry it into the Cleveland game.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Difficult to pick. Was it Willie Green and his 13-point fourth quarter? Jarrett Jack consistently drilling big shots en route to a 19-point outing? Carl Landrys double-double that consisted of 14 points and 10 rebounds? No matter whom you choose, this was arguably the best bench performance of 2010-11 for New Orleans, in a critical situation.
We were very disappointed in ourselves after the New York game, Green said of the teams mental outlook following Wednesdays 19-point loss. We had a team meeting, a coaches meeting, every kind of meeting you can have. We just wanted to come out tonight and play with a much better effort, and we did that.
Carl was huge tonight, Paul said. Willie Green gets the game ball. His fourth quarter was memorable.
The buzz on a lineup change at shooting guard. While Quincy Pondexters start at small forward was necessitated by Arizas injury, the move of elevating Marco Belinelli back to the starting five and moving Green to the bench had nothing to do with health. Williams explained before Fridays game that the move was made partly because the first-year coach felt Belinellis shooting was needed on a first unit that has been sputtering offensively recently.
Meanwhile, with Jack and Landry appearing to be able to generate enough offense for the bench, it may benefit the backups to have Greens defense on hand. Green probably wont get as many quality shot attempts as he had while he was starting, but he may be able to focus more on the defensive end of the floor.
At least through one game, the decision paid off in a big way. Belinelli was superb with 14 points on 6-for-7 shooting, while Green produced an immense fourth-quarter performance.
Blog question of the night: How much better do you feel about the teams status in the West playoff race after Fridays key win?