Hornets (45-33), Rockets (41-38)
It was over when
Jarrett Jack sank two free throws with 8 seconds remaining, giving New Orleans a six-point lead and forcing Houston to call its final timeout. Jack, who in six years has never played in an NBA postseason game, made numerous big fourth-quarter plays to help the Hornets clinch a Western Conference playoff berth.
Hornets MVP: Chris Paul nearly registered his first triple-double of the season, finishing with 28 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. The rebounding category has kept him from achieving the statistical feat in 2010-11 on a few occasions, because his season-high is nine boards.
After the game, in typical Paul fashion, the four-time All-Star talked about how important the playoff clinching was for several teammates, including six Hornets whove never played past Game 82 of the regular season. Im extremely happy for those guys, Paul said. Now weve got to play (the postseason).
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Jarrett Jack and Emeka Okafor are both listed in the top five for active NBA players with the most career games without any postseason experience. In 32 minutes off the bench, Jack personally made sure his name will be removed from that rundown in about a week and a half. The backup point guard netted 19 points and five assists, scoring nine clutch points in the fourth quarter.
"It's just as big for me as when I got drafted," Jack said of his first NBA playoff berth. "It's a dream come true. (The playoffs are) something I've watched from the side." Jack mentioned that in a couple past years, he visited Paul in New Orleans during the postseason and came to Hornets games: "I've lived vicariously through him."
It wasnt easy, Jack said of the Hornets eventful path to the playoffs. We had a lot of blows along the way. D West going down; Chris (Paul) going down. Guys have stepped up and weve battled throughout those circumstances, and were able to grind out victories.
The buzz on
where the Hornets might finish in the Western Conference standings. After moving into a tie record-wise with Portland on Wednesday, New Orleans is officially in sixth place because the Hornets won the season series with the Trail Blazers 3-1. As a result, the path for the Hornets to collect the No. 6 seed is relatively simple: continue winning and its a done deal. If NOLA prevails in each of its final four games, it will be at least sixth (its still also mathematically possible to move up to fifth, but not likely based on how Denvers been playing).
Interestingly, there is a potential scenario hardly anyone has mentioned that could flip-flop the opponent of whichever team finishes sixth. Its been deemed almost a foregone conclusion for a while that Dallas will be the No. 3 seed, but after the Mavericks lost Wednesday and Oklahoma City won, there is only a one-game gap between those clubs. That means OKC still has a reasonable chance to overtake Dallas for third. Also, since the Thunder won the Northwest Division and the Mavericks will not be a division winner (the Spurs took the Southwest crown), OKC will own the tiebreaker vs. Dallas.
Blog question of the night: Now that the Hornets are officially in the playoffs, which opponent would you like to see in the first round? Which teams would you like to avoid?