Hornets.com postgame: Lakers 107, Hornets 101 (OT)

Hornets.com postgame: Lakers 107, Hornets 101 (OT)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com
Lakers (27-16), Hornets (10-33)

It was over when… Metta World Peace blocked a Chris Kaman mid-range jumper from behind, giving Los Angeles the ball with a 103-99 lead and only 12 seconds remaining in overtime. Kobe Bryant then stepped to the foul line and made two free throws. Despite the defeat, the Hornets played one of their best games of the season, with a chance to upset the Lakers near the end of regulation. New Orleans also led by 14 points at halftime. It would’ve arguably been the Hornets’ most memorable victory of 2011-12, but instead wound up as another near-miss on their home floor.

Hornets MVP: Jarrett Jack was automatic for much of the night, drilling a steady stream of jumpers and floaters through the lane to pile up 17 first-half points. He was on pace for career night in scoring but wound up with 30points (his top NBA game is 33). The point guard finished 13-for-21 from the field and 4-for-4 from the foul line, to go with six assists.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Greivis Vasquez was just as lethal from the field as Jack, going 6-for-7 and tallying 15 points. Vasquez also handed out six assists, all in just 17 minutes. His eight-point second quarter sparked the Hornets to a 26-20 edge, which expanded the lead to 54-40 at intermission.

The buzz on… the 2011-12 season in a 53-minute nutshell. Wednesday’s overtime loss contained a multitude of earmarks of what’s been an extremely difficult year for New Orleans. The Hornets lost a close game, falling for the eighth time in 10 outings in which the game was decided by three points or fewer (or in overtime). The Hornets played valiantly against a more talented (and healthier) opponent in the New Orleans Arena, but made enough mistakes in crunch time to miss a golden opportunity to get back into the win column. The Hornets are now 4-18 at home, difficult to fathom given how rarely they’ve been manhandled in the Hive this season. In fact, in home games decided by 10 points or less, New Orleans is now 2-12. “I am proud of the response I got from the guys tonight,” Monty Williams said. “The effort was night and day from the other night. And at the same time the losses just drive you nuts… I told (Hornets players), ‘if you continue to play that way we are going to win more games.’ But at the same time the execution down the stretch was poor. There is no other way to put it, and I think our guys understand that.”

Shootaround: March 14 vs. Lakers

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

• While there is nothing new to report in terms of the potential returns of Eric Gordon and Emeka Okafor, Hornets power forwards Carl Landry and Jason Smith were on the floor again during shootaround today. Monty Williams said the Hornets are hopeful they will return “soon, but not tonight. But they’re going to be ramping up their workouts soon, to get back (in action). I’d like to say we’re going to have them back tonight or tomorrow, but I don’t want to get too excited about that.”

• New Orleans small forward Al-Farouq Aminu has turned in his lengthiest effective stretch of the season over the past five games, averaging 7.0 points and 4.6 rebounds, while shooting an impressive 68.2 percent from the field. That efficiency on offense has been in stark contrast to his stretch after the All-Star break, when he had several subpar shooting games. “I just think he’s getting more time now, and when you get more time, you get more comfortable,” Williams assessed. “He’s been aggressive, the right way, lately. Once he gets a consistent jump shot it’s going to open up everything for him. But I think he’s worked at it. He’s in the gym every day and doesn’t take many days off. Coach (Bryan) Gates spends a lot of time with him in film. It’s a lot for a young guy at 21 years old to pick up a system. Forty games in, he’s starting to understand what we want.”

• Rookie center Jeff Foote, who is on a 10-day contract, will receive perhaps the biggest challenge of his brief NBA career against the monstrous Lakers frontcourt, featuring 7-footers Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. “It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m looking forward to it,” Foote said. “I’ve always enjoyed playing against the better big guys. When I was in (college) I played against the Lopez brothers (Brook and Robin of Stanford).”

• The Lakers won a double-overtime game at Memphis on Tuesday night and did not hold shootaround this morning on the second day of a back-to-back set. Asked if the extra exertion by the Lakers might help the Hornets tonight, Williams responded, “It helped. I’m not going to lie, it helps to have those guys play that many minutes. But they’re still the Lakers. It’s not like they’ve never done that before. It sounds good in theory, but I think in practicality, (we’re) still playing against the Lakers.”