Scott: Lineup changes may be in offing soon

Wednesday, November 4, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Two years ago, an improbable Peja Stojakovic three-pointer vs. Dallas forced overtime in a December 2007 game, one of the most memorable moments of the Hornets’ magical 2007-08 season. After Stojakovic delivered in nearly the exact same fashion against the Mavericks tonight, the Hornets hope that the forward’s heroics will eventually be remembered as a pivotal play of 2009-10.

An incredible sequence of missed free throws in the final minute of regulation by Dallas, combined with Stojakovic’s clutch trey, enabled New Orleans to extend the game into OT. The Hornets (2-3) started the extra stanza on a 9-2 run and dominated for much of the five minutes, ending a two-game losing streak.

Dallas appeared poised to post a quality road victory, leading 97-94 with 13 seconds left in regulation and set to shoot three free throws. But the Mavericks were errant on all three attempts, including a misfire on a technical foul by Jason Terry (career 84 percent foul shooter) and two misses by Jose Barea (career 77 percent foul shooter). Stojakovic then buried a contested three-pointer from the top of the key with 6.7 seconds left.

Hornets coach Byron Scott described his team’s ability to force overtime under those circumstances as “a miracle probably.”

Stojakovic had been 0-for-7 from the field before swishing his game-tying shot.

More from tonight’s dramatic victory:

• Asked whether opposing teams are making Chris Paul (39 points, 14-for-23 shooting, 7 assists) become more of a scorer than he has been in the past, Scott wryly responded that Scott himself was the one doing that.

“I’m asking him to do a lot,” Scott said of the two-time All-Star. "That’s one of the reasons I was so adamant about him playing (only) 34 or 35 minutes a game, because I thought he would be even more effective. And so far he has been. I’m telling him every night to be aggressive, because when he’s scoring he’s drawing a lot of attention, and it opens up the floor for Peja, Bobby, DWest and all of those guys.”

Paul, on the significance of the Dallas win: “It was a very good win against a team that has been playing great. They beat a really good Utah team last night and beat the Lakers in L.A. This is a very good win for us and hopefully will give us the opportunity to make (more) strides.”

• Bobby Brown had shot an abysmal 29 percent from the field prior to tonight, but played easily his best game as a Hornet, making several big plays. He finished with 18 points on 8-for-15 shooting and was on the floor for all of the key moments of the fourth quarter and OT. “The coaches told me to be aggressive and if the shot’s not falling, to penetrate, hit the gaps and find the open man,” Brown said. “Once I get a floater in or a layup off a backdoor cut, it boosts my confidence going into the next shot.”

The second-year combo guard said after the game that he was impressed by the decibel level of the 13,566 fans in attendance, who watched Brown seal the win with a breakaway dunk with 18 seconds left in OT.

“It was crazy,” Brown said of the atmosphere. “I thought when (Dallas was) shooting their free throws (late in regulation), the crowd helped make them miss those shots. That was so key. Once we got into overtime, it got live and motivated us even more. That’s how we’ve got to be every night when we’re at home.”

• Along with Brown, Darius Songaila produced his best game as a Hornet. Songaila was ultra-efficient, with 10 points on 5-for-5 shooting. He played 16 minutes.

• New Orleans was coming off a subpar defensive performance at New York, but held Dirk Nowitzki to 4-for-15 shooting and 12 points before he fouled out. “The key was making him uncomfortable,” David West said. “We forced him into some tough looks. You know he’s going to make some shots, because he’s a great player, but you have to make sure you make it tough for him.”

Hornets Head Coach Byron Scott

On the free throw situation: “It is a miracle probably that we had an opportunity to get to overtime and then once we got there it was, ‘let’s make sure we take advantage of it.’ You don’t expect (Jose) Barea and Jason Terry to miss the free throw but that is how it happened and we got some big stops in the overtime, especially to start the overtime to get the win. It is a win that we needed.”

On the defensive assignments: “Again, we are starting to understand what we need to do defensively and we just have to continue to work on it tomorrow and the next day and the next day and get it in embedded into our heads as the things that we need to do so it becomes a reaction and not just thinking about it. Tonight was much better. Despite them scoring 100 plus points, we did a better job on the defensive end. Again, we still have to cap it off by getting the defensive rebounds and not allowing, I think they had 14 offensive rebounds or 12 maybe, so we have to short that a little bit better. As a whole I was happy on the defensive end with some of the things we talked about.”

On offensive progress: “I was much more pleased with our spacing. That is something that we addressed this morning as well, so I thought we did a real good job of spacing the floor and giving CP (Chris Paul) an opportunity to really attack, and when he wasn’t attacking making layups or little jump shots, he was passing out to guys for open shots.

Hornets Guard Bobby Brown
“Coach wanted our intensity to be high because they just came off the back-to-back. He wanted us to be aggressive, push it at them, don’t play into their game and try to keep the score kind of low. He told us to keep our foot o on the pedal, especially in overtime when they didn’t have Dirk.”

Hornets Forward David West
“We wanted this one, especially at home. We wanted to make sure we gave it all we could. We were able to wear them down in the fourth quarter and get some bounces to go our way."

Hornets Center Emeka Okafor
“Yeah, we just kept going back and forth, then Dallas, they pulled away. Peja hit the big three and sent it into overtime. I guess it was just meant for us to win, so we just decided to go ahead and do it.” postgame: Hornets 114, Mavericks 107 (OT)

After watching the Hornets begin the season 1-3 and allow an uncharacteristic 104.8 points per game, sixth-year head coach Byron Scott says it’s too early to “panic.” But it might not be too soon to start considering a few changes to what’s been primarily a 10-player rotation thus far.

During shootaround this morning, Scott told reporters that he will be evaluating the next two home games, vs. Dallas (8:30 p.m., ESPN) and Toronto, to see if New Orleans can reduce some of the mistakes it’s made in the first week of the regular season. Scott said lineup alterations may take place if the Hornets are not making satisfactory progress.

“There is no reason to panic,” Scott said. “But I’m not real happy right now with some of the mistakes we’re making, because it’s something we work on every day.

“As far as being impatient with some of the things we’re doing, I’m getting to the point where I’m saying, alright, maybe I have to change up some things, in the starting lineup and maybe the bench. But I’m going to give it another game or so. But again, we can’t keep making the same mistakes we’re making. If we do, then I have to make some changes.”

Asked for which moves might take place, Scott declined to give specifics. However, he added that it’s possible we could see rookies Darren Collison and/or Marcus Thornton be part of the mix relatively soon. Collison has totaled just three minutes, while Thornton has been inactive for all four games (Scott said the inactive list of Thornton, Sean Marks and Ike Diogu will likely remain the same tonight vs. the Mavericks).

“The things I think they can give me are all very positive,” Scott said of the first-year pros. “I think both of those guys are biting at the bit right now to get out there and play. Hopefully in the next week or so, they’ll get an opportunity.”

• The Hornets ranked fifth in the NBA in fewest points allowed per game last season, but are 22nd at this early juncture of 2009-10. While some of the porous D can be attributed to miscommunication and several new Hornets trying to learn the scheme, simply put, the Hornets’ individual defense has been subpar. No matter what strategy a team uses, if players are not keeping the man they’re guarding from beating them off the dribble, the results will not be good.

“We’ve got to play better one-on-one defense,” David West said. “We can’t (always) rely on help defense. Right now we’re getting beat on every closeout.”

Scott: “Yesterday I watched the New York game and from a rotational standpoint, we’re still struggling on our communication. Some of it is Emeka (Okafor), which is understandable, because he still hasn’t really had time to grasp what we’ve talked about trying to do. The other part is guys not trusting each other yet.

“I’m not real concerned, because a lot of these things are correctable. I saw a game that got away from us in New York, mostly because of defensive lapses.”

• West said the chemistry among the starting five – which essentially includes three new members – has room for improvement. Julian Wright and Morris Peterson were both Hornets reserves for the bulk of 2008-09, while Okafor is a first-year Hornet.

“We’re not playing together, obviously,” West assessed. “We haven’t made Julian feel comfortable. In terms of Emeka, we’re still trying to figure out ways to make sure he’s getting involved. Mo (Peterson) was out of the lineup (most) of last year. Now he has to get back to a certain comfort level. I don’t think we’re doing a good job of playing together or making some of the other guys feel like they can contribute and put an imprint on the game.”