Hornets (2-0), Nuggets (1-1)
It was over when… Denver point guard Chauncey Billups’ errant crosscourt pass trickled out of bounds, giving the Hornets the ball back leading 99-93 with 18 seconds left. A rare key mistake from one of the NBA’s most cerebral players virtually iced an excellent two-game homestand under new coach Monty Williams, who described the outcome as "a big win for our team."
Hornets MVP: Chris Paul (18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) seemed to frequently pass up his own scoring opportunities in order to set up teammates. That was part of the reason 11 different New Orleans players cracked the scorebook, including eight players with six points or more. After a virtuoso 16-assist, one-turnover performance in Wednesday’s win, the three-time All-Star had seven assists and no turnovers vs. the Nuggets.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Though his playing time has diminished in the early going compared to the second half of last season, Marcus Thornton is actually doing exactly what many envisioned him to be capable of as a reserve. Thornton was the 11th Hornet to enter the game, but that didn’t stop him from scoring 10 points in 18 minutes. Through two games as a sub, the LSU product has 18 points in roughly 30 minutes of action.
The buzz on… the Hornets’ bench. Entering preseason, most objective NBA analysts listed New Orleans’ backups as a potential problem spot or critical weakness. During preseason, the group seemed to add fuel to that concern, showing little cohesiveness and periodically squandering leads. Friday’s performance was easily the best the bench has looked so far, however. Against a Denver team that is highly regarded for its depth (though the Nuggets are a bit shorthanded at the moment due to injuries), New Orleans held a 37-27 advantage in bench scoring. “The bench was good, really good,” Paul said. “They really extended the lead. Marcus (Thornton) was huge for us. We’re going to need that. We’re not a team that’s going to win with (only) our talent on any night. We’ve got to stick to our gameplan and most of all, trust each other.” Thornton: "We just got together (due to so many new players among the reserves). We're gelling kind of fast, which is a good thing. Once we get all the way together, we'll be a better team."
Blog question of the night: What's been the most surprising or pleasant aspect of the way the Hornets have looked during their 2-0 start under Monty Williams?