Five Observations: Hornets 98, Magic 97

Tuesday, April 1, 2008
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

New Orleans (51-22) posted another huge road victory Tuesday, hanging on in the final seconds to edge Orlando (47-28). The Hornets rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit and improved to 4-1 on their current six-game Eastern Conference road trip. The trek concludes at Miami on Wednesday.

Peja Stojakovic drained the biggest basket of the game vs. the Magic, a three-pointer with 54 seconds left that gave New Orleans a 96-95 lead. Stojakovic dropped in two free throws with 12 ticks to go to extend the edge to 98-95. After Orlando’s Hedo Turkoglu slammed in two points, Chris Paul – an 85 percent foul shooter – missed two free throws to give the Magic a final chance to win. Just before the final buzzer, Orlando backup guard Keyon Dooling’s off-balance 15-footer fell short.

“It was nerve-wracking,” described Morris Peterson, who played a key role in the victory. “I’m just glad we got the win.” Five notes from the one-point victory in Florida:

1)Peterson turns in best offensive game in over two months.
Throughout the past couple months, Byron Scott has given Peterson extended minutes in the second half only when the Michigan State alum has been productive in his first-quarter stint. Unfortunately for Peterson, that hasn’t often taken place, resulting in him often finishing games with fewer than 20 minutes of playing time, unusually low for a starter, and sitting in crunch time. In Orlando, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard earned 32 minutes by netting 19 points, including 5-for-6 three-point shooting. He also grabbed six rebounds.

“Chris (Paul) and those guys did a great job of finding me and finding guys when they were open,” Peterson explained. Peterson tallied his best single-game scoring output since a 22-point effort at Phoenix on Jan. 5.

2)Armstrong plays more in Orlando than he did in March.
Hilton Armstrong has been on the inactive list recently, but with Melvin Ely (illness) sidelined Tuesday, he took advantage of an opportunity to contribute. After a relatively non-productive four-game stretch on this trip by Chris Andersen, Armstrong vaulted ahead of Andersen in the rotation.

As Bob Licht pointed out during Cox Sports TV’s broadcast, Armstrong had logged a total of 13 minutes in the month of March. The UConn product was on the floor for 15 minutes Tuesday. He did a fairly solid job, notching five points and seven rebounds. However, he’s still getting stripped too easily when he catches passes near the basket. “He’s exposing the ball too often, not shielding it,” assessed Hornets radio analyst Gerry Vaillancourt.

3)Hornets have shot at fantastic road trip.
New Orleans’ fourth victory in five games on this trip includes only one defeat, at Boston, the NBA’s best team record-wise. Granted, it’s been well-documented how weak the East is right now, but any West club would be happy with a jaunt that includes road wins in Cleveland, Toronto and Orlando.

At the beginning of the season, this six-game excursion loomed on the schedule as a potentially dangerous one for the Hornets. Instead, all they need is a win at Miami on Wednesday to post one of the more impressive road trips of the 2007-08 NBA season by any club. The Heat roster is now comprised of several recent D-League pickups and has been putting up some frightening point totals over the past couple weeks.

4) Chandler, Hornets D solid vs. Superman.
Orlando went 13-for-29 from three-point range Tuesday and repeatedly burned New Orleans on the perimeter, but the Hornets will gladly take the final stats in the paint. Tyson Chandler’s 12 points was only five fewer than Dwight Howard’s 17 points. Howard did major damage in Orlando’s early-season victory at New Orleans with 24 points and 15 rebounds, but was held relatively in check, a subtle key to Tuesday’s victory.

5)Blog question of the night: What is your assessment of the new Hornets-inspired song "Buzz 08"?
I'm not sure how many of you have seen this already, but the YouTube link for this hip-hop song about the Hornets was forwarded to me Tuesday What do you think?