Five Observations: Hornets 118, Lakers 104

Wednesday, November 7, 2007
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Maybe you had to get up early Wednesday morning for work. Maybe you had an 8 a.m. class to attend. Either way, perhaps you couldn’t stay up late to watch Tuesday night’s Hornets game on the West Coast at Los Angeles, which tipped off at 9:40 p.m. Central time and wrapped up a few minutes before midnight.

Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much. You only missed seeing these developments during New Orleans’ 14-point win over the Lakers:

  • Peja Stojakovic connecting on a franchise-record 10 three-pointers – that’s right, 10 trifectas – en route to an incredible 36-point outing. He drained seven treys in the second half alone and five during his 17-point third-quarter scoring barrage. By the way, the single-game NBA record for three-pointers is 12.

  • Chris Paul setting a second Hornets franchise record by dishing out 21 assists, with many of them coming on pinpoint passes to Stojakovic on the perimeter.

  • The Hornets putting on an impressive display in a building where they’ve had little success over the years, and improving to 4-0 on the young season. New Orleans matched its franchise-best 4-0 start from 2006-07. It has the best record in the league at the moment; though a few other teams are also undefeated, none of them have four wins yet.

Here are five observations from Wednesday’s entertaining victory:

1) Peja bounces back in a big way.
Stojakovic – or “Stoy-arc-a-swish,” as he was nicknamed in a Cox Sports Television broadcast graphic Tuesday – went just 1-for-10 from the field at Denver on Sunday. Forty-eight hours later, he responded with one of the best games of his 10-year NBA career (his career-high in scoring is 42, set last season vs. Charlotte). He was so hot during the third quarter, it was hard to believe the Lakers continued to leave him open, but the Los Angeles defense got caught in a few transition situations where it had to pick up a driving Paul, leaving Stojakovic free. The Serbian capped his offensive eruption with a high-degree-of-difficulty, stepback trey, while eluding a Lakers defender. “The shooting exhibition he put on tonight… I was out here talking to the fans and saying, ‘Wow,’ ” Paul said after the game. “It’s great to play with a guy like (Stojakovic).” “We were moving the ball so well,” Stojakovic said.

2) Surrounded by shooters, Chris Paul is licking his chops right now as he runs the offense.
Perhaps the best example of how well the Hornets shot Tuesday – they were 14-for-25 on treys – was this: David West buried both of his three-point attempts. West, who made eight three-pointers over the entire 2006-07 season, collected 22 points. When Paul receives an outlet pass and dribbles into the frontcourt, he often has several attractive options, including Stojakovic, the red-hot Rasual Butler and proven veteran shooter Morris Peterson. “(Stojakovic), Tyson (Chandler), David West, Rasual – those guys were making shots,” Paul explained of his 21-assist performance, which surpassed his previous best by three dimes.

3) Rasual Butler was huge again off the bench.
During training camp, Butler told a group of reporters that he expects to have the finest season of his NBA career in 2007-08. The comment seemed like something that you’d expect every player to say, but the 6-foot-7 swingman is off to probably the best start of his six seasons in the league. Butler sank a momentum-turning three-pointer to give the Hornets a 96-89 lead with 6:59 left in the fourth quarter. He followed that up with a big jump shot at the 4:00 mark, helping keep the Lakers at arm’s length.

4) Too many easy baskets.
One negative from Tuesday’s game came at the defensive end, where the Hornets turned in their weakest performance among their four wins. New Orleans didn’t do a bad job on Kobe Bryant (28 points, 11-for-20 shooting, only 4 free-throw attempts), but role players like Rony Turiaf (15 points, 7 rebounds), Jordan Farmar (11 points), Vladimir Radmanovic (11 points) and Andrew Bynum (8 points, 13 rebounds) did significant damage. The Lakers shot 47.3 percent from the field, partly the result of getting several close-range looks off their 11 offensive rebounds. Los Angeles’ guards also got to the rim too frequently for layups.

5) Julian Wright gets first key minutes.
The rookie from Kansas played 11 minutes vs. Portland, but most of those were during the fourth quarter of a blowout. He logged four minutes at Denver, all in the second quarter. On Tuesday, Wright was on the floor during a key fourth-quarter stretch, along with four other reserves. Overall, the 6-foot-8 forward’s night was a mixed bag. All during a brief second-quarter stretch, he stole a Lakers pass, had a nice multi-tip offensive rebound, and scored on a crafty reverse layup. But he also committed two fourth-quarter turnovers, one on a no-look pass that was intended for Chandler. The 7-foot-1 Chandler did not expect the feed as he cut to the front of the rim, and the ball went out of bounds.