Two days ago, the Hornets were officially eliminated from postseason contention. If you were in the Hive tonight for this game, you never wouldve known it. In front of a frenzied, sellout crowd, New Orleans (35-40) played one of its most inspired games of 2009-10, knocking off the defending NBA champions and the best team in the Western Conference.
Perhaps the best aspect of the victory over the Lakers (54-20) was the continued increased comfort level of Chris Paul, who played 39 minutes. He scored 15 points and had 13 assists, spearheading an offense that shot 49 percent from the field.
Somewhat, Paul responded, when asked if this was the best hes felt over his four-game return to action. I used a lot of energy tonight and I felt good. It felt good to go out there and play a few more minutes.
I talked to the doctors (before the game), added Paul, who had logged 31 minutes in the past two games. They told me I could play more minutes, depending on how my knee feels. It was good to play a little bit more tonight and not have to keep looking over there to see if I was at my minutes (limit).
The other major positive development was one of the most balanced performances from the rotation of the entire season. Six Hornets reached double figures in scoring and New Orleans bench outscored the Lakers 42-12.
We moved the ball and did a good job exploiting the switches (by the Lakers defense), described reserve Darius Songaila, who finished with 10 points in 16 minutes. We made a lot of shots, but it was because we were moving the ball well.
This is a good win, Paul said. We understand that were building for next year.
We fed off the crowd. We understand that we still have a lot to play for. Were trying to get as many people healthy as possible, and we still have to go out there and compete for our fans night in and night out.
Something unrelated to the game but still worth mentioning even though I wish I had footage of it. After the win over the Lakers, David West was intently watching the final few seconds of the Xavier womens NCAA Tournament game on a TV monitor above his locker (West is a Xavier alum). The Xavier game was tied as time ran down, when a Xavier player missed back-to-back point-blank layups that wouldve won the game in regulation or put the Musketeers ahead. Both times West yelled and motioned wildly at the TV set in each instance, incredulous that that could happen. Fellow Xavier alum James Posey said "That's alright!" right after the first miss, because Xavier got the ball back, but was also stunned when a second shot on the doorstep went awry.