Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 102, Nets 94

Saturday, March 17, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (11-34), Nets (15-31)

It was over when… Jarrett Jack sank two free throws with eight seconds remaining, giving New Orleans a three-possession advantage at 102-94. The foul shots capped the Hornets’ best comeback of the 2011-12 season, which featured a 32-12 fourth quarter scoring advantage. The Nets led 82-70 through three quarters, but the Hornets were superb down the stretch. With a narrow 95-94 lead, Chris Kaman sank a deep two-pointer to beat the shot clock – it was nearly his first career three-pointer – followed by Marco Belinelli’s difficult three from the right wing to make it 100-94. New Orleans heads into an extremely rare three-day break between games, not returning to the floor until Wednesday’s home game vs. Golden State.

Hornets MVP: It was an extremely close call between Kaman and Belinelli, who shared team scoring honors with 20 points apiece. I’ll give the slight edge to Kaman, partly because he scored 16 points in the second half, when the Hornets badly needed his interior presence. Belinelli was steady throughout Saturday though, scoring a symmetrical five points in all four quarters, along with exactly one three-pointer in every period. I realize that an MVP nod for Belinelli would’ve also meant a bonus mention on his website and Twitter page (@marcobelinelli), but this was almost too tight to pick. "I think in the second half, we played very good basketball, especially on defense," Belinelli noted. "I think that's why we won the game."

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Playing in front of friends and family in his native New York metropolitan area, Lance Thomas was as critical as anyone during the fourth-quarter comeback. He scored eight points in the period, including a pair of aggressive dunks, a left-handed hook shot and two free throws. The Duke University product added a dunk in the second quarter to account for 10 total points.

The buzz on… the long-awaited return of Jason Smith. It was great to see the 7-foot power forward back in the lineup, not only because of his impact on the team, but also from a pure health standpoint. Smith recently spoke to New Orleans reporters about his growing concern that some of his symptoms from the Feb. 4 concussion he sustained in Detroit were not subsiding, making him ponder the seriousness of the problem and how it could impact not just his basketball career, but also his day-to-day life. Fortunately in recent days he was able to begin participating in Hornets shootarounds, before getting back onto the floor Saturday in New Jersey. After missing 20 consecutive games, it was easy to forget how well the Colorado State product performed early in the season, one of the bright spots of what was an extremely rough January for New Orleans. In his return game vs. the Nets, he showed some of what he’d done in his first 21 appearances, tallying six points and five rebounds in 21 minutes. His first basket was an athletic dunk, followed by one of his patented standstill jumpers. Smith is shooting a career-high 47.3 percent from the field this season.