Bidding for the coveted second seed in the Western Conference playoff race, Utah (52-28) led basically from wire to wire, handing New Orleans (35-45) its fifth straight loss. The Hornets remained within striking distance during the first half, but the Jazz took control in the third quarter with a 29-20 push.
The third quarter really did us in, Jeff Bower said. We really struggled for most of that quarter.
In typical methodical fashion, Utah gradually asserted itself at the offensive end through its familiar but brutally effective style of play. The Jazz shot a blistering 55.0 percent from the field and piled up 56 points in the paint. The visitors assisted on 32 of 44 baskets.
This was exactly what Utah does, Bower said. A high number of assists. They force you to stop them in the paint, which is what they do well. For stretches we did defend well, but they keep coming and keep coming. The lull in the third quarter, when we couldnt keep up with them, decided the game.
Darren Collison delivered his second straight game of 20-plus points, finishing with 28 on 11-for-19 shooting.
James Posey said after Thursdays practice that he has felt better physically as the season has progressed, coming off knee surgery last summer. That might account for his noticeable improvement in perimeter shooting of late, which continued with a 4-for-5 game from beyond the arc vs. the Jazz. Posey is 15-for-31 from three-point range over the past eight games, nearly 50 percent. On the season, he was at 32.0 percent entering tonight. Thats his lowest accuracy rate in five years.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
Hornets Head Coach Jeff Bower:
On the game: The third quarter was what really did us in
we really struggled that quarter. The first half we played a solid game and we were scoring, but so were they. They score a higher number of points; this is exactly what Utah does. We did a better job in the second half, though we defended them pretty well. I dont think it was heavy legs that slowed us down, but rather our inability to execute against so many factors. Utah will take advantage of any area thats open and thats exactly what they did.
On Utahs talent: Utah is one of the more challenging teams to beat. They are able to match their terrific schemes with even better execution, and when you combine that with the talent base they have, theyre a tough team to play. They score a high number of points and thats what theyve done since the opening third of the season. We beat them in Utah, but they took off from there.
Hornets Forward David West:
On the game: I think Deron Williams just took control in terms of making sure that got a quality shot every time down the floor. We couldnt get him under control to where we could bother his ability to pass or get to the basket.
On the 3rd quarter: They put us on our heels. They dont do anything different or new. I think there just efficient in what they do. If you make mistakes, like a couple of times we didnt rotate and we werent able to get them under control.
On defending the Jazz: Its probably the toughest system to guard in the NBA. They have above average players personnel at every position. It makes it tough especially when Deron Williams decides to be aggressive as he was tonight. It makes it tough to keep them in striking distance.
On the last home game coming up: Its natural to want to win the last on at home, but we still have to go out there and play. Well come out Sunday and try to find a way."