Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 94, Timberwolves 93

Wednesday, March 18, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

After Hornets coach Byron Scott sat down at the podium tonight for his customary postgame interview, Hornets radio analyst Gerry Vaillancourt began his Q&A with a statement, not a question.

“This can’t keep happening,” Vaillancourt told Scott, essentially joking that the frequent nail-biters the Hornets have been playing are too stressful and nerve-wracking for people to handle.

For the third time at home in the last month, New Orleans (42-25) narrowly escaped against an opponent that was below .500 or barely above the break-even mark. Like in victories over Detroit and Milwaukee in late February, the Hornets had to be thankful that they emerged with a W. This time, the opponent was the shorthanded Timberwolves, who’ve been without top player Al Jefferson since their last trip to the Big Easy.

In fairness to the Hornets, they were again without Peja Stojakovic (back), and Tyson Chandler (ankle) missed his first game since before the All-Star break. Still, Scott concurred with Vaillancourt’s half-serious assessment that this one was far too close for comfort.

“I agree, I agree,” Scott said. “It’s like I told the players, ‘I will take it because it’s a win, but it’s still not good enough. We’ve still got to do a better job of playing better for longer stretches of time, and sustain it.”

It was a relatively competitive game for most of the night, but the Hornets appeared poised to take control after an 8-0 run at the end of the third quarter gave them an eight-point lead. But Minnesota (20-48) was at its best in the fourth period, taking as much as a four-point lead.

After a forgettable night for David West (14 points, 3-for-13 shooting), he provided the go-ahead basket, a dunk off a feed from Chris Paul with 12 seconds remaining. Minnesota’s Randy Foye had a chance to win the game just before the buzzer, but his jump shot rattled in and out of the hoop.

West noted after the game that his teammates continued getting him the ball inside, despite the fact that very little was going right for the All-Star power forward at that end of the floor. “Guys kept coming to me,” he said. “I don’t know if I would have kept (passing) to myself. But they kept doing it. Fortunately we were able to make some plays and get this win.

“We’re happy to get this win. We haven’t played as well as we’d like, but we’ll take a win at this time of year.”

A few other notes:

• More good signs from Morris Peterson tonight, who scored eight points in 15 minutes off the bench, which has had a rough time generating offense. Despite missing a lengthy period of time due to his foot injury, Peterson has contributed in the minutes he’s been given. “It’s still basketball,” Peterson said of getting back on the court after an extended layoff. “As a pro, I wanted to come back in shape and ready to go. Because I understood that when I did come back, we weren’t going to have that many games left. The worst thing I could’ve done was come back not in shape. I thought about that every day, doing extra (work) and getting fatigued (while working out), so that when I came back, I was ready to roll. For the most part, it’s on course.”

• With Chandler out, Hilton Armstrong was pressed into starting duty and responded with one of his best games of 2008-09. Armstrong set season highs in rebounds (8) and blocks (4), while scoring 12 points. “It was a great opportunity to get out there and play hard,” Armstrong said. “I’m really hungry right now. I want to get out there and help the team out as much as possible.”

Byron Scott

On the game: “We got ourselves in a bind by giving them a bonus with 8 and half minutes left in the quarter. We had to keep them out of the lane a keep contesting jump shots.
On David West: “The last three or four games it just hasn’t been the David West we know. We will sit down and talk a little bit tomorrow to see where he is at mentally. If I had to guess I would have to say that it has to do with him playing so many minutes. He got more rest tonight then he has in a while.”

David West
On the Game: “We had to get this win. We haven’t played well… I couldn’t get rhythm I have been kind of out of it the past three or four games.”
On the pick and roll with Chris at the end: “I felt like if I were to catch it in an Iso (Isolation) situation then they would have loaded up. When CP has the ball he can be a lot more dangerous (than myself).”

Scott may make Peterson a starter vs. Wolves

With shooting woes playing a major role in consecutive losses to Chicago and Houston, fifth-year Hornets coach Byron Scott discussed the possibility this morning of adding more perimeter help to the starting five. Scott said he is considering moving last season’s starting shooting guard, Morris Peterson, back into the first unit, which would move Rasual Butler to starting small forward. In that scenario, Julian Wright would be shifted back to the reserve unit.

“If I do anything, it will probably be Mo(Peterson going into the starting lineup), and I will take Julian (Wright) out,” Scott said at shootaround about an hour ago, as New Orleans (41-25) prepared for its 7 p.m. home game vs. Minnesota. “That’s what I’m pondering right now. I probably won’t make up my mind until I (come back) to the arena tonight.”

In other news:

• Scott expects Peja Stojakovic to return from his back injury at some point over the next week. “My gut tells me that he will play on this homestand,” Scott said. “I’m just not sure if it’s going to be Friday, Sunday or (next) Wednesday. A lot of it depends on how he feels today or tomorrow. But he said he feels a whole lot better.”

• Tyson Chandler’s ankle problems have persisted, resulting in the 7-foot-1 center resting instead of going through the paces at shootaround this morning. Scott believes the injury has factored into Chandler averaging 4.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in the two recent defeats. Scott said he will rely on Chandler to be honest about how much the injury is affecting him. “If it’s to the point where he can’t be productive and effective because of it, I’m going to have to take him out (of games),” Scott said. “When you talk about Tyson, his best attributes are his athleticism, quickness and speed. He’s not 260 (pounds) or 270, where he can move people around. He’s relying on his agility. When your ankle’s messed up, it kind of limits that ability. We’re just hoping in the days we have off, he can get the rest and treatment, and he’ll be able to go out and play the way he’s capable.”

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