Hornets (46-33), Suns (38-41)
It was over when
Willie Greens scoring barrage gave the Hornets a 19-point lead midway through the fourth quarter. New Orleans finished its five-game homestand at 4-1 and put itself in position to clinch finishing no worse than seventh in the Western Conference if the Hornets prevail Sunday at Memphis. If the Hornets win their final three games, they are guaranteed the No. 6 seed (barring a collapse by Denver that would move NOLA up to fifth).
Hornets MVP: In arguably the best game of his eight-year NBA career, Willie Green set a New Orleans franchise record by starting Friday with 12 consecutive made baskets. He finished with a season-best 31 points; his previous top offensive game in 2010-11 was 24 points. Although Green did not reach his career-high, the 37-point game he compiled for Philadelphia in a late-season 2007 matchup vs. Toronto consisted of 14-for-25 field-goal shooting. In this game, he wound up 12-for-17.
When asked by a TV reporter afterward if hed ever had a game like that, Chris Paul jokingly interjected from nearby, only on Xbox!
I dont know if you say he was en fuego or caught fire, but he was rolling tonight, Monty Williams said.
Asked what Jarrett Jack's mindset when he was on the floor with Green, Jack responded, "Get him the ball and get out of the way."
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Since he came off the bench, its tempting to give this to Willie Green, too. In order to spread the wealth a bit, lets go with Jason Smith, who turned in a pretty solid six-point, four-rebound outing in 17 minutes of playing time. Incidentally, Smiths mouth looked a lot better after Fridays game, after having two days to heal from Brad Millers hard slap on Wednesday.
The buzz on
the Hornets status in the Western Conference seedings race. With Memphis victory over Sacramento tonight, the field of eight teams in the West is finally set (Houston was eliminated). Other than that, there is still considerable uncertainty with less than a week remaining in the regular season.
One thing we do know is that as mentioned above if New Orleans goes 3-0 the rest of the way, it cannot finish below a No. 6 seed. Its also still possible to end up at No. 5, but the Nuggets would have to go 1-2 or worse. Denver faces three teams that are out of playoff contention (not that that guarantees anything with the way outcomes have gone in the West lately).
If the Hornets go 2-1 and/or win Sunday against the Grizzlies, they cannot finish below a No. 7 seed, because 2-1 would get NOLA to 48 wins on the season, making it impossible for the Grizzlies (45-34) to surpass the Hornets. By going 1-2 or 0-3 from here, however, the Hornets could potentially wind up at No. 8 and face the top-seeded Spurs in Round 1.
As I type this, Portland was in the midst of its late Friday game against the Lakers. Monty Williams was asked by a reporter before Hornets-Suns if Williams would be a Lakers fan tonight. Williams, a former San Antonio player and Portland assistant coach, smiled and said, Ill never be a Lakers fan. Ill just be hoping that Portland doesnt do well.
Blog question of the night: What is your favorite single-game performance by a Hornets player during the 2010-11 regular season so far?