Rasual Butler has put together an outstanding individual turnaround this season, but the starting guard was struggling to find his shooting touch recently. That still didn't keep Hornets coach Byron Scott from drawing up a play for Butler with the game on the line tonight.
Butler's game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer from the left wing allowed New Orleans (46-27) to post its second straight win and avoid an upset bid by Sacramento (16-57). The Kings took a two-point lead on Beno Udrih's difficult, off-balance 20-foot jumper, but with 1.7 seconds still on the clock, the Hornets called timeout and inbounded from the frontcourt. Devin Brown found Butler cutting from the paint back to the three-point line, where he turned and fired one of the biggest shots of New Orleans' season.
Butlers clutch trey capped a wild finish in which the Hornets missed four crucial free throws after having built a seven-point lead in the waning minutes (they were down 90-86 through three quarters).
On to other noteworthy developments from a game that had plenty:
It was an inspiring performance by David West tonight. The All-Star forward equaled his career-high with 40 points, knocking down jumper after jumper in the second half. All this despite playing the entire second half with a gimpy ankle that caused West to limp up and down the floor and appeared to affect his lateral mobility significantly. West injured the ankle when he stepped awkwardly in the second quarter while trying to dribble and fake into the paint.
Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrongs trial by fire continued, with starters Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler missing their 14th and seventh straight games, respectively. Wright was excellent offensively, scoring all of his 14 points in the first three quarters and going 7-for-8 from the floor. Wright continues to give the team some much-needed easy baskets, including two dunks in the first quarter. Armstrong was 4-for-6 with nine points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes. A couple negatives for Armstrong though were his 0-for-2 trip to the foul line in a crucial spot, as well as his turnover after appearing to secure a big offensive board late.
Devin Brown, who has been out of the rotation as recently as last week, was on the floor in crunch time tonight. He had two key fourth-quarter buckets, but like Armstrong went 0-for-2 on free throws in a key spot, with the game tied.
Butler was 4-for-7 from the three-point arc and finished with 18 points. He had gone 5-for-24 on trifectas over the previous five games.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES (courtesy Sacramento Kings)
On the last play designed for Rasual Butler
Yes it was. I knew everyone would really focus on CP (Chris Paul). I just tried to make him a decoy and I told Rasual your probably going to be wide open so get ready to shoot it. You just go for the win; we didnt want to play overtime. He got a great look obviously. When I saw it leave his hand I had a good feeling it was going in.
On being surprised Rasual was so open
Yes. I told David (West) as well, if you think they are going to switch, screen your man as well. So I thought he did a hell of a job setting the screen. They didnt switch it and he came out wide open. He pretty much screened two guys. We really let them back in the game and got lucky. Rasual bailed us out.
On letting the Kings back in the game
They did a great job. They shoot the ball so well. They spread you out and make you defend them, and then they are good off the dribble. I thought the zone had a big time effect on them. But later on in the game, we were not getting up on the three-point shooters like we talked about. We were laying back then (Francisco) Garcia and (Rashad) McCants, all those guys started knocking them down.
On the night by David West on a bad ankle
I knew if I took him out, he probably would not have come back in. Tomorrow we will just have to wait and see. Right now, I would say for tomorrow it does not look good.
On doing whatever it takes to win
I said that right after the All-Star game, for the second half, whatever we have to do to win, we are going to do. If that means tough shots or just playing until the end, thats what we are going to do.
On Rasuals game winning shot
Rasual is a shooter. I have the utmost confidence in him. It was a heads-up play for him to not shoot a two and go for the win and he knocked it in.