* Game notes, quotes
With the game on the line, the Hornets’ All-Star duo delivered another hard-fought, narrow victory. Trailing by one point in the final seconds, Chris Paul drove into the teeth of the Cavaliers’ defense, spun away from the hoop and fed David West for an open 16-footer. West buried the jumper with six-tenths of a second remaining, giving New Orleans one of its finest road victories of an extremely successful regular season.
New Orleans (49-21) remained on top of the Western Conference standings and awaits another difficult road test Friday at Boston.
The Paul dish that resulted in West’s game-winner was CP3’s 20th assist of the game, one shy of the franchise record he established in November at the Lakers. West totaled 20 points, but Peja Stojakovic led the Hornets with 25 points, including six three-pointers.
“I think everybody thought (the final shot) was going to go to Peja,” West related. “But Coach (Byron Scott) called my number. Coach said, ‘If you get that shot, take it.’ Luckily, it went in. (But) Peja carried us in the fourth quarter, making some big shots.”
Five observations after New Orleans’ fifth consecutive victory, including a 2-0 mark so far on the six-game Eastern Conference road trip:
1) New Orleans posts best road win since early February.
The Hornets still have one of the league’s top road records, but they’ve cooled off somewhat recently. All of their away victories since the All-Star break have come against mediocre or worse opponents; this was the first triumph against a high-caliber host since New Orleans went in to Phoenix on Feb. 6 and bested the Suns in overtime. The Hornets are now 3-4 on the road since All-Star weekend, with the other victories coming at New York and Indiana.
2) Neither MVP candidate thrives offensively, but Paul nets head-to-head sweep.
Paul finished with 15 points and 20 assists, but went just 5-for-17 from the floor. Meanwhile, LeBron James had 21 points, nearly 10 points below his season average, along with eight assists and three rebounds. Not a great night for either guy, but Paul had to be pleased with getting the Hornets’ first victory in Cleveland since James began suiting up for the Cavs during the 2003-04 season.
3) Chris Andersen moves up in the rotation.
The 6-foot-10 backup center totaled eight minutes of playing time Wednesday, but he was the second reserve to enter the game, at 1:25 of the first quarter. His lone scratch on the stat sheet came in the form of a three-point play, a confident drive to the rim. Meanwhile, neither Melvin Ely nor Ryan Bowen got into the game Wednesday. Hilton Armstrong was a healthy inactive for the second straight night.
4) Rebounding a weakness of late.
The Hornets have now lost the battle of the boards in four straight games. Even though they’ve won every time, Wednesday’s effort on the backboards was their poorest in quite awhile. Cleveland enjoyed a 48-33 advantage and extended too many possessions by grabbing 17 offensive rebounds, only five less than New Orleans’ 22 defensive rebounds. When you’re barely getting more than 50 percent of the boards on your defensive end, that’s not good.
In case you were wondering, New Orleans has been an above-average rebounding team this season, with a differential of plus 1.5 per game that is eighth in the NBA out of 30 teams. Interestingly, all seven teams that rank higher – Cleveland (3.8), Dallas (3.2), Philadelphia (3.2), Houston (3.9), Utah (2.5), Boston (2.2) and Detroit (1.7) – would also be in the playoffs if the season ended today.
5) Blog question of the night: Is Byron Scott the No. 1 candidate for the NBA’s Coach of the Year award?
NBA.com recently began evaluating the Coach of the Year race and now lists Scott at the top of its rundown.
Based on his straightforward, “old school” personality and approach, the Hornets’ promotional campaign for Scott’s Coach of the Year bid can best be described as no-frills. Unlike many of the flashy campaigns produced by NBA teams, Scott’s is about as basic as it gets. The 100-plus media members who will vote on Coach of the Year are receiving a plain cardboard box. Inside the box is a package that is labeled with a Fleur de Bee logo. After you open the package, you’ll find a plain white piece of paper with basic black type. On one side of the paper it reads: “Byron Scott is the 2007-08 Coach of the Year.” On the opposite side, it contains items regarding Scott’s success this season and concludes with this line: “No Nonsense. No Gimmicks. Straight to the Point. Just Like Coach Scott.”