Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 115, Kings 103

Saturday, March 12, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (39-29), Kings (15-49)

It was over when… Emeka Okafor converted a three-point play to give New Orleans a 107-90 lead with four-plus minutes remaining. The Hornets actually trailed by a point at 85-84 entering the fourth quarter, but put together a big run in the final stanza to post their first comfortable win over the Kings this season. NOLA posted its second straight victory and – combined with Portland’s defeat in Atlanta – moved into sixth place in the Western Conference. The Hornets can climb another rung on the West ladder on Monday, when they host fifth-place Denver.

Hornets MVP: What concussion? Playing in his first game since being sidelined in Cleveland six days ago, Chris Paul put together his most impressive statistical line of the 2010-11 season, including 33 points, seven rebounds, 15 assists and five steals. There was no easing of Paul back into the lineup, either – he played 42 minutes.

“I just tried to come out and be aggressive,” Paul said. “That’s what I was trying to do in those few games before I had to go out with the injury. Luckily, I was able to pick my spots tonight.”

Sacramento seemed to fear Paul’s driving ability more than most recent opponents, consistently going under screens and backing off the four-time All-Star when he had the ball at the three-point line. If the Kings’ strategy was to make Paul a scorer, it worked, with him taking 21 shots, but he also had the 15 assists, so the visitors didn’t cut off his distributing to teammates, either. Including Paul, three Hornets had 20-plus points, an NBA rarity.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Facing the team that traded him last month, Carl Landry compiled his Hornets-high point total of 20, including 10-for-11 free-throw shooting. Landry’s ability to get the Hornets easy baskets and additional trips to the line could be at its most valuable if they make the postseason, when games often slow down and drift toward the paint. The 6-foot-9 power forward benefited Saturday from Emeka Okafor’s persistent foul problems. Landry played 34 minutes.

“Ever since I got here, the team has welcomed me with open arms (and) the city,” he said. “I’m really happy to be here. The transition (to a new team) is very easy, just because there are a bunch of vets on this team.”

Landry chuckled when it was suggested he had extra motivation while facing Sacramento, before saying: “I don’t know. I just wanted to go out and play hard and try to win the game. I’m sure with Marcus (Thornton) coming back home and me playing against Sacramento, I’m sure people hyped it up and that was the talk in the media for the day or whatever. But it wasn’t about that. It was about me going out and helping my team win a game.”

The buzz on… Marcus Thornton’s return to New Orleans. Starting for the fifth time in nine appearances for the Kings, the Baton Rouge native and LSU product received a significant cheer when he was introduced as Sacramento’s first-string shooting guard in pregame. Portions of the New Orleans crowd applauded for the 6-foot-4, second-year pro when he scored baskets against the home team – and there were plenty of those, with him going 11-for-19 from the field and scoring 25 points.

“It’s always good seeing familiar faces and guys you’ve been around for a year and a half,” Thornton said after the game. “But it’s kind of sad we didn’t get the win, because I’m a competitor first. It’s great to come back home and play in front of my fans. I’ll always love these New Orleans fans. They’ve loved me from day one since I first got drafted here. They’ll always have a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win.”

Blog question of the night: What was the most encouraging aspect of Chris Paul’s vintage performance against the Kings? New Orleans scored a season-best 115 points in the win.