Hornets can lock up 6 seed with win at Houston

Monday, April 13, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

There is no shortage of incentive for New Orleans (49-31) to win in Houston tonight (7:30 p.m.), with the Hornets only needing a victory to wrap up the sixth seed. New Orleans will be the No. 6 by winning either tonight or Wednesday in San Antonio, but by prevailing at the Toyota Center, the Hornets may be able to give Chris Paul and David West significant rest in the regular season finale.

Since the playoff opener won't be until Saturday or Sunday, that would signify the longest "breather" for either player in quite some time; remember, Paul and West also participated in All-Star festivities in February.

Tyson Chandler will not play tonight against Yao Ming, but may be on the floor Wednesday against the Spurs.

The Hornets can still finish anywhere from No. 6 through No. 8, but the only way they end up eighth would be a combination of two losses, two Mavericks victories and two Jazz victories. Dallas' final two games are home vs. Minnesota and Houston, while Utah hosts the Clippers and visits the Lakers.

Even if the Hornets wrap up the sixth seed tonight, their opponent would still be undetermined, since San Antonio, Houston and Portland are deadlocked at 52-28 records. All three of those clubs are in action Monday, with the Spurs at Golden State, and Portland hosting Oklahoma City.

Check Hornets.com after the game tonight and Tuesday for more details on the potential scenarios regarding New Orleans' seeding and first-round opponent.

Hornets.com postgame: Rockets 86, Hornets 66

Over the past month, the Hornets’ lack of consistent offensive production has been a major concern. New Orleans has rarely reached the 100-point mark during its recent slump, with several games in which only All-Stars Chris Paul and David West have reached double figures in scoring.

The offensive woes reached what the Hornets can only hope is their low point tonight. With a chance to nail down the No. 6 seed in the West, New Orleans (49-32) turned in its worst offensive game of the season, totaling a meager 24 points in the middle quarters. The Hornets led by six early in the second quarter but were outscored 28-11 in that period. After an 11-point third quarter, New Orleans trailed 67-46. The way the Hornets’ offense was performing, that was more than enough for the Rockets to breeze to a comfortable victory.

Name the offensive stat, and the Hornets were subpar. En route to their lowest point output of the season, they only shot 34.6 percent from the field. They were just 6-for-10 from the foul line, not nearly enough attempts (though Houston had only 13 – but made all of them). David West led the team with 14 points on 6-for-15 shooting. The rest of the starting five combined to shoot 7-for-31.

"I thought from the second quarter on, (Houston) outplayed us," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "They wanted it a whole lot more than we did and played harder than we did. We got our butts kicked. That's a very good basketball team. If you don't match their energy, you're going to get beat most of the time."

The Hornets nearly received unexpected good news in the form of a Minnesota upset at Dallas, but the Mavericks escaped with a two-point win on Jason Terry’s corner jumper with two-tenths of a second remaining. In the other relevant game amid the 6-7-8 race, Utah routed the L.A. Clippers, meaning more bad news on the scoreboard for the Hornets.

With Dallas and Utah both winning, the Hornets still can finish anywhere between 6 and 8 entering the final two days of the season. If Utah prevails on Tuesday night at the Lakers, it would mean that New Orleans heads into its Wednesday game still in jeopardy of dropping to eighth. If Utah beats the Lakers, a combination of a Hornets loss at San Antonio and a Mavericks win over Houston would push New Orleans down to the No. 8 seed and a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Lakers.

HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES (courtesy Houston Rockets)
Byron Scott

on his team’s play) “The bottom line is we don’t play hard every game and that is really a problem. Playing hard and competing hard is a talent and we have to learn to play every game like it is our last. They have to show me they want it. It was a lack of energy on our part.”
(on the playoffs) “We had an opportunity to sew up a playoff spot and we laid an egg. They outplayed us in just about every way.”

Chris Paul
(on the game) “We got smashed. It was embarrassing. They beat us in just about every way possible.”
(on the team’s play) “We need to be more aggressive and get to the free throw line. If we are not knocking down our shots then we have to get to the basket to make things happen.”
(on the playoffs) “It’s good that we still control our own destiny. (What if you play Houston in the first round?) “Well, I’ll tell you one thing... We’ll probably make more shots than we did tonight. We’re just not good enough to just turn on the switch to make things happen. We have to play hard every game to win.”

David West
(on the game) “We just didn’t shoot the ball well. They methodically beat us in every way possible. It wasn’t pretty.”
(on the Rockets now without McGrady) “The ball doesn’t stop moving and they utilize one another much better. They get better ball movement and are more difficult to stop without McGrady.”
(on the Hornets' play) “I thought last year we could dominate teams game after game. We don’t have that dominance this year and teams don’t fear us and that is (a) bad thing.”

Peja Stojakovic
(on the game) “It’s not the time of year you want to play like this. They took it to us and just outplayed us. It was the way we played. It was a bad loss. We have to play with more intensity and smarter.”