Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 97, Clippers 90

Thursday, March 22, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (12-35), Clippers (26-21)

It was over when… the Clippers missed a pair of three-point attempts while trailing 95-90 with less than 10 seconds remaining, sealing a memorable victory for New Orleans. It was an emotional night all the way around, with Chris Paul making his only visit to the Big Easy this season. The Hornets have beaten a few teams with better records than the Clippers in 2011-12, but from the home fans’ perspective, there probably won’t be a bigger victory than this one. The game featured playoff-like intensity and a few minor scrapes between the teams, adding to the satisfaction of prevailing in front of a sellout crowd.

Hornets MVP: Although he didn’t come anywhere close to admitting it in the locker room after the game, it seems like it had to be a least a little sweet for Chris Kaman to get 20 points, 10 rebounds and a victory in his first game against the Clippers, the only NBA team he’d play for prior to the December trade to New Orleans. “(There wasn’t any extra motivation), not for me,” Kaman said. “We still have to play them two more times this year. It’s basketball.” Kaman said the foul that resulted in Jason Smith’s ejection made it seem like the teams were playing with more intensity than usual, but that the play may have been overblown. “(Griffin) is on the highlights all the time,” Kaman said. “I just think Jason didn’t want to get dunked on, plus (Griffin) struggles to shoot free throws this year. Jason tried to make a play, but misread how much time he had to grab him, and just jacked him on the side. Jason’s not that kind of guy. He’s a nice guy. He would never try to purposefully hurt someone.”

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Xavier Henry followed up a quality performance Wednesday vs. Golden State with another nice contribution, this time with 12 points and 5-for-6 free-throw shooting. Henry said the Hornets’ coaching staff has talked to him about being more aggressive in taking the ball to the basket, instead of settling for jumpers. Although he was often touted coming out of college at Kansas as a pure shooter, the 6-foot-6, 220-pounder has not been accurate enough in the NBA to subsist mostly on perimeter attempts. He used his strength and athleticism to draw several fouls in the second half, when he scored all of his points. He also drained a key three-pointer in the fourth quarter to cap his scoring.

The buzz on… Paul’s return. Many wondered how the crowd would react when Paul was introduced; by an unscientific estimate it was 75 percent cheers and 25 percent boos when his name was called in the L.A. starting lineup. There were sporadic boos throughout the game when Paul touched the ball, but those appeared to subside as the game progressed, perhaps partly because the action was so compelling that there was little reason to focus on it. During the timeout between the first and second quarters, a video tribute aired on the arena’s BuzzVision screen – repeating the scene from David West’s return in early March – but Paul seemed focused on the Clippers’ huddle. “I’m so tuned into the game that I can’t really get into it,” Paul explained after the loss. “But I’m greatly appreciative. This is my first home and these people are like my family.” Hornets point guard Jarrett Jack, who moved into the starting lineup when Paul was traded, admitted that Thursday’s game was one some players had been looking forward to for quite some time. Jack: “As much as you try to say this was just a regular game, everyone somewhat had it circled on their calendar." Anyone who witnessed the atmosphere in the arena tonight understood that Hornets fans would say the exact same thing.