While starting the season 3-0, the Hornets had been one of the most talked-about teams in the NBA through the first week of the schedule. Amid all of the praise New Orleans was receiving, it was easy to forget that its guest Wednesday was also undefeated.
Atlanta backed up its stellar - though largely unnoticed - start to 2008-09, posting an impressive road victory. The Hawks improved to 3-0 by draining a multitude of clutch perimeter shots in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Hornets 29-17 over the final 12 minutes.
This was New Orleans poorest performance at the offensive end by a wide margin, after it had scored at least 104 points in all three victories. The Hornets shot just 42.3 percent from the field and were outrebounded 45-35 by the athletic and energetic Hawks. Chris Paul at times was the lone effective Hornet on offense, piling up 19 first-half points to help keep the hosts within six points of the lead at intermission. Paul finished with 22 points and 11 assists.
I thought we got exactly what we deserved, Hornets coach Byron Scott said. We got our butts kicked, because we didnt come ready to play tonight
I thought we were about as lackadaisical as weve been in a long time.
Scott said he expected more energy from his starting five, who were sluggish early, resulting in a 24-16 deficit after one quarter. New Orleans pulled into a 62-58 edge through three quarters, but Atlanta nailed five three-pointers in the fourth stanza. Overall, the Hawks were 12-for-30 from beyond the arc.
When a team plays harder than you, thats hard to swallow, Scott assessed. (The Hawks) were more aggressive, more physical.
Other developments from Wednesdays defeat:
Backup point guard Mike James has only averaged 10.3 minutes per game, partly because the Hornets have struggled when hes replaced Paul on the floor. During the critical early portion of the fourth quarter, the Hawks went on a 7-1 run with Paul sitting, turning a four-point deficit into a 65-63 lead.
(Paul) needs to rest, Scott said, when asked whether he regretted taking the All-Star out of the game for a 2:28 stretch. (But) were still not getting enough from Mike right now coming off the bench. We seem unorganized at times, and obviously the point guards job is to (keep the team) organized.
TYSON, PEJA RETURN
The Hornets starting center and small forward were back on the floor after missing action due to ankle sprains, but both players looked a bit out of sync. Tyson Chandler finished with nine points, seven rebounds and five fouls over 35 minutes of playing time. Peja Stojakovic couldnt locate his shooting touch, going 3-for-13 from the field. He had eight points, six rebounds and four assists in 38 minutes.
As a result, Hilton Armstrong (14 minutes) and Rasual Butler (13 minutes) returned to their prior reduced roles off the bench.
Melvin Ely underwent root-canal surgery earlier this week and was inactive for the first time this season.
Attendance was 16,030, about 1,000 shy of a sellout, bringing the teams sellout streak to an end at 14.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
The M.O. on our team from last year was 'beat them up' and thats what (the Hawks) basically did. They took liberties against us and we took a step back because we accepted it instead of fighting fire with fire. Sometimes, you just got to step up and be a man."
They (the Hawks) just beat us. We thought we could just turn it on whenever we got ready. They were just the better team than us.
We have to understand its a long season. We lost a game. We would like to go 82-0, but it wasnt very likely. We just have to find out what our identity is and we have to start establishing it.
We just have to go back to the drawing board. We are all upset that we didnt get the win. We just have to be ready to play on Friday.
HAWKS POSTGAME QUOTES
We came out in our defensive scheme tonight and were right on the money in terms of our switches and trying to really control some of there other big time players, like Stojakovic, Posey and Butler. We did a great job on West early, I thought. Chris Paul is Chris Paul. He is a great point guard and the leader of this team. He does a lot of good things for his ball club. I like what he does. I just thought tonight that we were the aggressor from a defensive standpoint. We stayed within our game plan even when they made runs. We were able to counter their runs.