With only four games remaining in the regular season, its still possible for the Hornets (48-30) to move up from their current sixth place in the Western Conference standings. However, after tonights home defeat to the Suns, that has become increasingly more unlikely. Perhaps grasping this reality perhaps not New Orleans fifth-year coach Byron Scott mentioned in his postgame press conference that it may be time to consider cutting the minutes of All-Stars Chris Paul and David West over the next seven days.
Scott may re-evaluate that notion after viewing the standings and assessing the situation again tomorrow morning, but at this point in the regular season, it could be more important than ever to make sure Paul and West are in optimum physical condition entering the playoffs. With the pair of Hornets receiving inconsistent help from the rest of the roster lately, there's little doubt that both will be needed to play 40-plus minutes in the postseason.
You can rest them, Scott said, when asked by Hornets radio analyst Gerry Vaillancourt what recourse Scott may have to battle fatigue. We already rest them (by them sitting out recent practices), but even during games. Maybe I have to get to the point right now where I sacrifice winning and things like seeding were already in the playoffs to get those guys 10 more minutes of rest per game. Maybe that benefits us later down the line. Thats something that I really have to take a look at.
Without a doubt, New Orleans looked like a tired team tonight, 24 hours after overcoming a late deficit in regulation to post an overtime win at Miami on Tuesday. Paul (29 points, 16 assists, 13-for-29 shooting) and West (28 points, 12 rebounds, 12-for-20) carried a huge load again for the Hornets. The remainder of the squad totaled 43 points on 16-for-41 shooting.
The Hornets seemed on their way to a big offensive night after scoring 32 points in the first quarter, but managed just 19 and 14 points in the middle quarters, a sputtering performance against a Phoenix club that surrendered 140 points in Dallas three days ago.
My observation of watching the guys, we looked like a bunch of tired guys out there, Scott said. This is not the point in time where fatigue should be a factor. But we seemed a step slow on everything we were doing. In the fourth quarter we tried to pick it back up, but it was too late.
One of the questions the coaching staff had entering tonights game was whether the Hornets would build off the exciting win over the Heat, or whether that physical defensive struggle would affect them vs. the Suns. It seemed the latter was the case.
I didnt know if we were going to come out and let last nights game catapult us, Scott said, or if we were going to be so fatigued that we werent going to come out and play the way we were capable of playing. Its unfortunate, because I thought last night was a great win and youd think you could carry the momentum from that. But we just werent able to do it.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
On the bench:
We needed big time help off the bench and we just arent getting it. Thats the bottom line. It is just disappointing that we arent getting the help we need, to win we have to have 6 or 7 guys come out and play hard especially in the western conference."
On the game: Teams are going to try to switch up their defensive schemes, and we just need to find ways to get good looks at the bucket. We were just trying to get some stops and try to get some quick shots at the goal. We were able to knock down some of those shots. We made a last little push.
On the remaining games: The games against Dallas are huge. It will give us the tiebreaker if we win down there. Weve beaten them (two) times. We may see them in the playoffs anyway. We need to try to start playing playoff atmosphere-type basketball.
On the game: I just thought we started doubling Shaq to early. They (the Suns) had other guys who made some shots. We just didnt have an answer in terms of adjusting to what they were trying to do offensively. They really came out aggressively. I thought we had a stretch where we were kind of indecisive about what we wanted to do with Shaq, and that came back to bite us.
On the remaining games: Its like a playoff series with Dallas. We have two games with them, with huge implications. We need to try to go down to Dallas and steal one. We just need to try to pick up wins.