Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 96, Grizzlies 84

Friday, March 20, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets radio analyst Gerry Vaillancourt described the first three quarters of tonight’s game as “nap time for both teams.” New Orleans and Memphis didn’t settle much as they trudged through the initial 36 minutes: It was a one-point game at halftime, and a one-point game entering the fourth. Fortunately for the Hornets, they finally broke out of their early fits and starts, taking control to the tune of a 29-16 final period.

“You can see that it’s that time of the year where the season’s kind of winding down and a lot of teams are tired, physically and mentally,” Hornets coach Byron Scott said. “But in the fourth quarter we really revved it up on the defensive end. After we got steals and rebounds, we looked to be aggressive. They really ignited us in the fourth quarter.

“They found that added energy that we needed.”

No surprise that Chris Paul was at the forefront of the late-game surge, scoring 10 points and grabbing three steals in the fourth quarter alone. CP3 totaled 32 points, five rebounds, nine assists and five steals.

Other notes based on Scott’s Friday postgame talk with media:

• Scott was asked by a newspaper writer “How long can you continue to ride Paul and David West the way you did tonight?” The team’s All-Stars accounted for about two-thirds of the points (61 of 96) and half of the field-goal attempts (40 of 80). Scott grinned slightly and said: “We’re going to find out. I think both of those guys and the competitive nature they have seems to come out at the end of the game and in the fourth quarter. At this point, every win is so important. My motto has always been I will think about tomorrow tomorrow. (On Saturday) they will sit down and relax in practice and get ready for Sunday against Golden State.” For his part, West said “we can’t worry about minutes (or being tired). We just have to go out and play and perform.”

• Julian Wright put together another solid game, resulting in him playing 27 minutes, his most since March 7 and second-longest stint of this season. “I think he’s at the point where he feels good about what he’s doing,” Scott assessed. “He’s got some confidence going right now. It’s very important for him to keep getting better each game, because he can be a very big asset to us when the playoffs start.”

• On the downside, Hilton Armstrong could not back up his excellent Wednesday start with a second quality outing. Armstrong was in foul trouble from the get-go tonight and wound up with five points and one rebound in 16 minutes. Scott was asked after Wednesday’s game if that Timberwolves win was a “breakout” performance for Armstrong, but Scott did not call it that, saying he wanted to see more than one encouraging showing from the 6-foot-11 center. “That’s why after Wednesday’s game I didn’t get so excited,” Scott said tonight. “My biggest thing with Hilton is to do it again – consistency. You’ve got to come back and have an even better game, and not be happy with what you did (Wednesday). I wasn’t very happy with the way he played, but from a maturity standpoint, it’s something he has to learn. You have to build off of good games and not go backward. Tonight he just didn’t play well.”

• New Orleans has not been getting many free throws recently, which is not unusual for a Hornets team that has many perimeter shooters but fewer slashers. Paul said he is trying to drive more as a result of this reality. "We're a team that does get a lot of foul shots, because we have a lot of jump-shot shooters. So I know it's my job to get in the lane and be aggressive, and get into the bonus (team foul penalty)." Paul went 8-for-8 from the stripe; the Hornets totaled 20 FTAs.

Chris Paul

On the fourth quarter: “We just started being aggressive. We had the ball screen going and I was able to get in the lanes. Julian Wright was a big force for us at the end, and we defended really well.”
On the game: “I was just trying to be aggressive. I was trying during the first half. But I had to take what the defense gives you. In the second half, they let me get in the lane and I was able to throw a little bit more. It felt good to be able to sit out the fourth quarter a little bit. It’s all about winning games right now, and that’s all we’re trying to do here at home.”

Rasual Butler
On the fourth quarter: “We just started making our shots, and our defense was playing good. We finally closed the quarter out the way we wanted to in the beginning of the year. Chris was in the paint all night, and when he wasn’t, David (West) was. When we have those two guys playing like that, we’re going to be tough to beat.”
On Chris Paul’s play: “Chris came out, and we were kind of struggling. We spoke about that on the bench together. He said we need to pick it up a little bit. That’s the beauty of having a point guard who can also score. He can make plays for people, and when the game’s a little stagnant, he can control it.”

Chandler, Stojakovic out for tonight vs. Grizzlies

Hornets coach Byron Scott told reporters this morning at shootaround that the team will be without its starting center and small forward against the Memphis Grizzlies. Tip-off is 7 p.m.

Tyson Chandler (ankle) will miss his second straight game. It will be Peja Stojakovic's ninth consecutive DNP due to his back injury. New Orleans is 5-3 since Stojakovic last played on March 2.

"We're going to see if we can get (Chandler) ready for Sunday (vs. Golden State), and Peja as well," Scott said. "Tomorrow hopefully they'll feel a little bit better, and then on Sunday they'll be ready to go."In other Hornets news:

• Hilton Armstrong will start a second straight time in Chandler’s place. Armstrong responded with one of his best games as a pro Wednesday. “I thought he played well,” Scott said. “Now the trick is to put two or three of those games together, that’s the biggest thing. Tonight’s another challenge for him. He’s playing against a guy who’s similar to Kevin Love, in (Grizzlies center) Marc Gasol. He’s a little taller (than Love), but just as physical. I was very pleased and very encouraged by his last game. He was real aggressive on both ends of the floor, and that’s what we’ve talked about from Day 1. When he’s out there, not to be thinking so much, and that’s what he did.”

• Morris Peterson appears as though he could be on his way to increased minutes. Scott: “Mo is just getting healthy now. I thought he played well (Wednesday). When you’re struggling on the offensive end (as a team recently), sometimes you have to bring in a shooter. The last game (the Timberwolves) were starting to pack it in (the paint) defensively, so that makes him very valuable.”

• Scott addressed David West’s recent dip in performance, saying that fatigue is the primary factor behind some of the All-Star poor games. “He’s tired right now,” Scott said. “There is nothing wrong with him physically (in terms of an injury). I think it’s that he’s playing darn near 40 minutes a game. He said, ‘Coach, I’m just a little tired.’ Which is understandable. Obviously it’s not the time of year I want him to be tired, but he’s a human being. If you’re not used to playing this many minutes, you’re going to be tired.”

• Scott was asked half-jokingly by Hornets TV’s Bob Licht if Scott had burned the videotape of the last Hornets-Grizzlies game, an ugly 85-80 Memphis win on Feb. 9 in which neither Rudy Gay, Chris Paul, David West nor Tyson Chandler played. “I think we broke the franchise record with the worst shooting night in the history of the Hornets,” Scott said. “It was one of the worst games I’ve ever seen, and both teams contributed to the bad play. It took basketball back about 40 years.”