The Hornets werent exactly sharp at the outset tonight, scoring just 14 points in the opening quarter. They went on to commit sloppy turnovers at a steady clip throughout much of the game. In a game that was anything but aesthetically pleasing, there were several areas in which the coaching staff could call for better performance. Still, New Orleans (41-23) figured out a way to accomplish what its been doing ever since Tyson Chandler returned to action, winning yet another game.
New Orleans improved to 9-1 since Chandlers Feb. 22 comeback and 11-3 since the All-Star break, outlasting Milwaukee (30-38) with several clutch plays in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter.
Chris Paul again took over offensively in the second half, drilling shot after shot from the outside against the Bucks during a 30-point, six-rebound, nine-assist game. Chandler continued his superb stretch of games, grabbing a season-high 17 rebounds along with eight points.
This was a good win for us, Chandler said. I knew this was going to be a scrappy game and a scrappy (Milwaukee) team. I knew we had to get some second shots and thats what I did.
Chandlers efforts on the boards led a 46-30 Hornets advantage in rebounding.
It was still anyones game before Rasual Butler drained a momentous three-pointer with 2:00 remaining, giving New Orleans an 87-79 lead. Paul later canned another jumper that kept Milwaukee at arms length; the shot made it 89-81 at 1:30.
A couple other notes and observations from tonight:
Julian Wright played 18 minutes, and was only briefly on the floor in the second half. Byron Scott went with Paul, Butler (17 points, 4 treys), Chandler, David West (a workmanlike 21 points and 10 boards) and James Posey for a lengthy stretch, with Posey essentially taking over for Wright at the 3. Antonio Daniels, Devin Brown and Hilton Armstrong played combined for 17 minutes, all in the first half.
Ryan Bowen appeared to earn himself more playing time in the near future with one of his trademark frenetic hustle games. Called the Ryan Express tonight by Hornets TV analyst Gil McGregor for his breakneck play, Bowen stole two balls and blocked a shot. It was humorous to watch the incredulous reaction of Milwaukees Keith Bogans, who had a close-range attempt swatted by Bowen and was later drilled in a collision when Bowen tried to steal a Bucks pass intended for Bogans.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES (courtesy Milwaukee Bucks)
(On pulling away after the Bucks tied the game in the final quarter
We just got a little lackadaisical and gave up a couple of wide open shots. Guys got back and werent really (stopping) on defense. I just didnt like our body language, so I had to call a timeout and ask them, Do you know what youre doing? to get us back on track.
(On the game
Its a big win for us. The rebounding and the free throws. Obviously the one negative is the 19 turnovers. Weve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball. Other than that it was a pretty solid game.
(On second-chance points
Tyson (Chandler) was doing a great job of just getting to the rim. Guys just werent knocking down the shots. But youve got to give them a lot of credit. They came out very prepared defensively. They did a really good job taking away lobs and just really packing the paint. We just had to hang in their offensively because we werent making shots but we had to continue making stops on the defensive end.
(On tonights game
We know how dangerous this team is here. We learned out lesson down in New Orleans. We didnt want to give them any life. After that first quarter we just buckled down. I thought we did a better job on (Charlie) Bell, making him a little bit more uncomfortable. Forced (Richard) Jefferson to go to the rim as opposed to just standing out and making some 15 footers. We basically did what we wanted to. We were able to limit (Charlie) Villanueva. Hes had some big games and were really able put the clamps down defensively.
(On responding to a slow start
When teams do that youve got to attack back. I felt like we attacked. You cant get on your heals. I felt like we attacked. Chris (Paul) did an excellent job of drawing some fouls and getting to the free-throw line when they tried to extend the pressure.