Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 107, Blazers 87

Saturday, November 13, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Hornets (8-0), Trail Blazers (6-5)

It was over when… Portland subbed deep reserves Patty Mills and Luke Babbitt into the game with just over a minute remaining, trailing 102-87. The final score might lead you believe this was a blowout, but Portland still had an outside chance of making a run until about the final three minutes, when Marco Belinelli bagged two straight three-pointers to just about end any hopes the Blazers may have had of handing the Hornets their first loss.

Hornets MVP: The transformation of Emeka Okafor continues. An aggressive Okafor finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while also setting the tone for another stellar defensive performance by blocking a pair of first-half Portland shots. After the game, the 6-foot-10 center again credited the Hornets’ new coaching staff with laying the groundwork for individual and team improvement.

“We’re well-prepared,” Okafor said. “The coaching staff has done a great job. Practices are very structured and very organized, very efficient. Our minds are fresh, our legs are fresh and we accomplish a lot there. There is a lot of emphasis placed on defense.”

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Jason Smith was announced as the winner of this award on BuzzVision in the New Orleans Arena, netting six points, two rebounds and several excellent hustle plays. Smith made a huge fourth-quarter play when he grabbed a teammate’s airballed shot, saved the rebound back in bounds and found Willie Green, who made Smith’s effort worth it by converting a three-point play. Incidentally, Green himself could’ve also been named the top sixth man from Saturday’s win, after scoring seven of his 11 points in the fourth quarter. Green’s energetic play was the biggest individual reason the Hornets gained control early in the final stanza, a spurt that gave the home team momentum and got the 14,000-plus fans in attendance sensing an eighth straight victory.

“If you notice, Willie’s in the game in the fourth quarter,” Chris Paul said. “Even though it’s early in the season, I have the utmost confidence in Willie. I love being out on the court with him in crunch time. Willie is a guy who has been in the league a long time. He’s going to make the other team beat you; he’s not going to make any mistakes.”

The buzz on… the Hornets’ seemingly instantly-developed chemistry. If you watch NBA studio shows on television, you'll often hear analysts say “Team X is off to a slow start because they have so many new players. It’s going to take time for them to get it together, but expect Team X to be much better after the All-Star break.”

While that may be a valid explanation in the case of some NBA teams, how do you account for the Hornets – with two brand-new starters among eight new players on the roster – starting 8-0 and looking like they’ve been together for years? Unselfishness may be one reason.

Paul: “We have really good character guys on our team. We are a real tight-knit group. We joke and laugh, but when we step on the court, we have a goal and everyone knows they have to hold up their end of the deal. We’re one of those teams that expect a lot from each other. When someone is not doing their job, we get on them.”

David West: "The guys that were brought in are veterans, who are willing to commit to the gameplan and stick with it the whole game. We're not worried so much about offense. We've been able to execute the defensive gameplan from start to finish. We try to make sure we have one another's backs."

Blog question of the night: At 8-0, Monty Williams is now tied for the third-best start to a head-coaching career in NBA history. From what you’ve seen over the first three weeks of the regular season, in which aspect of the game has the influence of the coaching staff been most evident on the unbeaten Hornets?