Hornets.com postgame: Jazz 90, Hornets 78

Monday, April 11, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Jazz (38-43), Hornets (46-35)

It was over when… Paul Millsap drilled a jumper to give Utah an 84-68 lead with just over three minutes remaining in regulation. New Orleans sustained a second straight disappointing defeat, this time in its home finale. As a result, the Hornets dropped into eighth place with only two days remaining in the regular season. Sixth-place Portland (47-33) hosts seventh-place Memphis (46-34) on Tuesday.

Hornets MVP: In a forgettable offensive performance by the starting five, New Orleans’ first unit combined to shoot 15-for-37 from the field. The starting frontcourt was 4-for-16 and each member of the trio tallied exactly five points, en route to the lowest point production at home for the Hornets all season. Chris Paul stood out most for NOLA, finishing with 15 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Jason Smith continues to make a case for additional playing time when the postseason begins this upcoming weekend. For the fourth straight game, the third-year pro tallied at least six points, this time netting 12 points along with six rebounds. It was his best single-game point total since Feb. 1 and most boards since Jan. 29.

The buzz on… there still being very little clarity in the Western Conference playoff race. It’s virtually impossible to explain – at least in understandable terms – all of the potential scenarios remaining for the Hornets that are related to their first-round opponent.

One thing we can say with some confidence is that Monday’s defeat to Utah made it unlikely that New Orleans will end up as the sixth seed. For the Hornets to end up sixth, they would need all four of these outcomes to take place: 1) Memphis wins at Portland on Tuesday; 2, Memphis loses at the Clippers on Wednesday; 3, Portland loses at Golden State on Wednesday; AND 4) New Orleans wins at Dallas on Wednesday. If any of those four outcomes do not happen, the Hornets can’t be the 6 seed.

It’s a bit simpler to explain how New Orleans can attain the 7 seed. All the Hornets need is to win at Dallas on Wednesday and have Memphis lose one of its final two games (the Hornets would also finish ahead of the Grizzlies if the Hornets lose at Dallas, but the Grizzlies go 0-2).

NOLA will wind up at No. 8 if it loses at Dallas on Wednesday and Memphis wins at least one of its games. It could also end up at No. 8 even by winning at Dallas, but that would require Memphis going 2-0 and Portland going 1-1 (with its lone win having to come at the expense of the Warriors on Wednesday).

Confused? You should be.

Blog question of the night: In one of the most important games of the season for the Hornets that does not actually involve them, Memphis visits Portland on Tuesday. What’s your prediction for the Grizzlies-Trail Blazers game? The outcome will directly affect what’s at stake Wednesday when New Orleans visits Dallas on ESPN.