The Hornets six-game first-round defeat against the Lakers was a lot like New Orleans entire 2010-11 season. They fared much better than virtually anyone outside the Big Easy expected. They were forced to overcome adversity beyond their control, this time in the form of missing their leading scorer and second-best rebounder to a season-ending injury. And they consistently scrapped and earned whatever victories came their way. Ultimately though, they showed that they're still another step or two away from where they want to be.
With one minute remaining and time out in Thursdays loss to the Lakers, fans in the New Orleans Arena rose and gave the team a standing ovation. The crowd chanted Thank You Hornets! as time ticked down on L.A.s first-round triumph.
Anyone with a realistic perspective understood entering 2010-11 that the Hornets were probably not going to evolve into a title contender overnight. En route to surpassing nearly all expectations, the Hornets reeled off a franchise-record eight victories to open the regular season. They later tied a team mark with a 10-game winning streak in the middle portion of the campaign. In other words, they showed plenty of glimpses of potential. In between though, New Orleans had stretches where its inconsistency and roster newness (only four players were here last season) proved too much to overcome. That was again the case against the two-time defending NBA champions, whove had basically the same core for four years.
We played with what we had, Chris Paul recapped of the series and the season. D.West wasnt here; hes our leading scorer
We fought, even after losing D.West, and all of the situations weve been through during the season. We continued to fight. But we didnt close it out the way we wanted to.
New Orleans didnt achieve all of its objectives this season, but it accomplished a large number of them in a 10-month period that was as eventful as any clubs in the entire 30-team league. The Hornets hired a head coach and GM, completed a handful of significant trades, experienced an unprecedented ownership change and saw West miss the final month of the season to his torn ACL injury. It all ended in front of the 11th sellout of the season in the Hive, with fans showing their appreciation for the effort their team put forth in 2010-11.
For postgame quotes, click here.
One of the primary themes of New Orleans first-year coach Monty Williams meeting with the local media during today's shootaround was the increased physicality of this first-round series. Williams was not pleased with several incidents during Game 5, including an instance where Lakers reserve guard Shannon Brown flailed at the Hornets Willie Green with an errant elbow.
Here are a few highlights from what Williams had to say this morning, as his team continued preparations for Game 6 (7 p.m., New Orleans Arena).
On physicality of the series:
I talked about that today (to Hornets players). I was like, Look were not getting the calls. Weve got to overcome more than we normally would. I can complain about referees all day, but its not going to change the score if were focused on that. Weve got to focus on the Lakers.
On what he expects in Game 6:
It should be no layups, for sure. I know its going to be a physical game, but I thought they swung at us a few times last game. I thought Shannon (Brown) shouldve been ejected, and if hes not going to be ejected, he shouldnt be able to play tonight. When you throw your elbow like that at a guy I know the rule is you have to connect but if he connects, (the result is) a fight. It could turn into more stuff. So I expect a physical game, but I expect a fair game. Thats how we play.
On whether Shannon Brown Game 5 elbow shouldve been reviewed on video:
It was one of the things I asked (the league) about. Theres no way you can throw your elbow at a guy in a basketball game and get away with that without a review. We review three-point shots, we review other stuff, yet a guy can rear off and (do that)? Before the second quarter was over, (Brown) swings at Jarrett Jack and fakes like he was blocking a shot. To me, those incidents turn into more stuff. Enough is enough. We teach our guys to play the game the right way. Its the playoffs, and we need to play through it, but I also feel like there needs to be a little more legislation.
On bench not playing well in recent games:
A lot of its been not getting a lot of minutes. When weve been good, our bench has scored and defended. Our bench gets in trouble when they dont defend, and thats what happened in that second quarter (of Game 5).
On physical play:
Theres a way to foul a guy where he cant get a shot off. If youre going to take a swing at a guy, thats different. Our guys are going into the cameras (due to Lakers contact), theyre getting pushed into the stanchion. Kobe hits Emeka in the face. Those kinds of plays should be upgraded (to flagrant fouls), and it was. Kudos to the league for that.
On Hornets defense against Ron Artest:
If I had someone else to put in the game on Ron, I would. Its tough for Marco. Trevor cant guard everybody. Marcos done a good job. Hes given up about 20 pounds. There may be a time where we go big and put Carl (Landry) on (Artest) and go with two bigs, but weve beaten them two games playing our way. So its hard for me to change a lot. But when were facing elimination, special situations call for special adjustments. So we may see it.
On atmosphere in the New Orleans Arena during Game 4:
It was so crazy. Our guys fed off that. We have to give them a reason to scream. It boils down to defending, and not giving that ball up so we can get easy baskets.