Among the areas where James Posey was expected to help the Hornets this season - defense, hustle, leadership - offense often wasn't even mentioned. It's only taken the 10-year veteran three games in a New Orleans uniform to show that he's a better offensive player than advertised.
The two-time NBA champion was outstanding on both ends of the floor Saturday, continuing his prolific perimeter shooting, going 4-for-5 from three-point range. Posey finished with 15 points and is now 10-for-16 on treys during New Orleans 3-0 start to 2008-09.
Posey also grabbed six rebounds and tallied four steals, while helping hold Cavaliers superstar LeBron James (15 points, 6-for-15 shooting) in check for much of the game.
Posey has been great since Day 1, Hornets coach Byron Scott said. I told him Im going to use him more (offensively) than some of his other coaches have, as far as allowing him to run the offense and post up.
New Orleans prevailed despite missing two starters to injury, Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic, both out with ankle sprains. The Hornets trailed 82-79 with 7:10 remaining in regulation but finished the fourth quarter with a 25-10 flourish. Posey dropped in six fourth-period points, while Rasual Butler drained a pair of treys and tacked on seven more points. Cleveland went through one critical stretch of the fourth quarter with seven straight empty possessions.
Defense was the key, Scott said. We were very aggressive against LeBron, and just didnt give him the alleys hes accustomed to seeing. I think our guys were a little bit more focused on the defensive end than they were in the first two games.
(James) is one of the greatest players in this game and a willing passer. We wanted to make him a passer and keep him out of the lane as much as possible.
Other developments from the home opener at the New Orleans Arena:
BUTLERS STELLAR START
The biggest surprise of the 3-0 start has been Rasual Butler. He was a frequent member of the inactive list last season the forward did not appear in a game after March 3 but has been a key contributor so far. The Philadelphia native started in place of Stojakovic and delivered a nice performance against the Cavs. Butler drilled a couple back-breaking shots and totaled 14 points, four boards and three assists in 37 minutes.
He worked extremely hard this summer and obviously he has his confidence back, Scott assessed. I have a lot of faith in him by putting him in the starting lineup. He did a heck of a job defensively as well.
Scott said after the win that Chandlers return to the lineup should occur before Stojakovic is able to make his own comeback.
Tyson probably will be ready Wednesday (home against Atlanta), Scott said. If not that game, then Friday (at Charlotte). Peja we still think is a week or two away from coming back.
Well just go with what weve got and keep trying to win.
With Chandler and Stojakovic out, the aforementioned Butler made his first start since Feb. 13 of last season in Milwaukee. For a second straight game, Hilton Armstrong was the starting center in place of Chandler. The third-year pro from UConn battled foul trouble again, picking up four personals. But he was aggressive attacking the rim, finishing with eight points all on dunks.
Among the other reserves, Mike James played slightly more than he had in the first two games, logging 13 minutes (meaning Chris Paul played the other 35. By the way, another "ho-hum" day for CP3, who had 24 points and 15 assists).
Julian Wright made his 2008-09 debut after battling his own ankle sprain, but only played four minutes vs. the Cavs.
Overall, Scott says he has been content with the second units play in the early going, after it had been listed as a team weakness in just about every national NBA preview article.
After three games, theyve kept the critics quiet a little bit, Scott said. They have performed pretty well. If we can get everybody on the same page on the bench, its going to make us a better basketball team.
Attendance was 18,150 for the opener, well over the official capacity of 17,188. That made it the Hornets 14th straight sellout, dating back to last season. It may have been a bit of an exaggeration to say it was a playoff atmosphere in the New Orleans Arena, but it was a considerably intense contest, considering it was only game No. 3 of 82 for both the Hornets and the Cavs.
At last check, there were about 1,500 tickets remaining for the Atlanta game on Wednesday, as the team tries to extend its sold-out streak.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
On the game: Its always good to be back home, whether after one game on the road or five games on the road. It was nice to win the two games that we won on the road against two very good basketball teams and then be able to come home and have our opening night with a victory against a very good team makes it that much better. It was great to be home.
On James: He is a great player, and knowing that he will figure out our defense. He had 13 assists tonight.
On the team: Our team does the best job being behind us, and letting us know where our help was at. We were able to be aggressive. We also did a great job trapping. We made some mistakes but for the most part of effort was good. We were on our defensive schemes.
On team chemistry: We are a team, coach did a good job in preseason mixing it up, not just the first five playing together. Our team is really on a mission, no matter who coach puts out there we got to play together."