Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 99, Wolves 90

Saturday, April 7, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (15-41), Wolves (25-32)

It was over when… Minnesota’s J.J. Barea missed a running layup with about 30 seconds remaining and New Orleans up 97-89. Greivis Vasquez subsequently nailed a jumper with the home crowd on its feet, the final points in the Hornets’ second victory in three games since Eric Gordon returned to action. New Orleans won consecutive home games for the first time in 2011-12.

Hornets MVP: Jason Smith has been showing signs of improvement all season, but Saturday’s performance was Exhibit A in demonstrating the kind of player he is becoming. The 7-foot power forward connected on his first eight shots en route to the best statistical outing of his four-year NBA career. The Colorado State product finished with a career-high 26 points on 12-for-16 shooting, while also grabbing 10 rebounds. Smith said afterward that he didn’t realize it was his most points as a pro, but he could tell physically that he’d equaled his career high with 36 minutes played. “I just go out there and expect it to go in every time,” Smith said of his 8-for-8 start. “I think Coach got us a little bit riled up. He got on us a lot because the way we played in the San Antonio game was embarrassing, to say the least. For us as Hornets players, we just did not bring it yesterday. Coach sent a message to us to really step up our game and play Hornets basketball.”

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Al-Farouq Aminu did a little bit of everything, with nine points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks. He also sank a three-pointer, something he’s been shying away from taking in recent weeks with his percentage dipping below 25 on the season. The second-year pro was actually the 11th of 11 Hornets players to enter the game, but fared well enough to log a bench-most 29 minutes.

The buzz on… Chris Kaman weighing in on the progress of Gordon, a four-year teammate. As a fellow former member of the Clippers, Kaman knows Gordon’s game and ability as well as anyone in the New Orleans organization. The 7-foot center, who was excellent himself Saturday with 21 points and 11 rebounds, believes Gordon has only scratched the surface of his skills in four games this week. “Eric is a special player,” Kaman said of the fourth-year shooting guard, who battled a back injury en route to a 10-point game on 3-for-12 shooting. “People don’t understand that yet, but they will. The way he can score the basketball, push the ball through gaps, cut through holes and finish at the rim, he’ll surprise you. Right now he’s just working himself into basketball shape. He’s been out three months – it’s hard to sit out three months. I can see he’s a little rusty hitting that hole (on drives). There’s a (help defender) waiting for him (when he tries to penetrate). He’s going to finish those and you’re going to see him improve, if he can stay healthy. But he plays so hard and really puts pressure on other teams.”