Playing without Chris Paul (ankle) for the first time this season, New Orleans remained within striking distance for much of the game until Atlantas 16-0 fourth-quarter run turned a tenous six-point lead into a 22-point cushion.
"(Atlanta) continued to put the pressure on us with their drives," said Hornets head coach Jeff Bower, after his second game on the sideline. "We did a good job with it in the middle of the game, but a combination of their aggressiveness and their constant attack of the paint wore us down."
The shorthanded Hornets (3-8) scratched and clawed against the Southeast Division-leading Hawks (8-2), but defensive problems and another rebounding disadvantage were too much to overcome. Atlanta racked up 65 points in the first half and totaled 68 points in the paint, while outboarding New Orleans by a 48-41 margin. The Hornets have had fewer rebounds than their opponent in all 11 games this season.
A few other notes from tonight:
With Paul sidelined, Darren Collison was thrust into his first NBA start. The 6-foot rookie point guard said after Fridays defeat that he was a bit surprised to play as much as he did vs. Portland in Bowers first game as head coach, so it was an even bigger adjustment for him to start. Collison seemed a bit indecisive at times, finishing with 10 points (4-for-11 shooting), four assists and four turnovers. He passed up a few deep jumpers and had his shot blocked twice on drives to the hoop. Collison said recently that he is working on adding more mid-range shots to his game, partly because it is much more difficult to finish at the rim in the NBA against bigger players than in college. Collison also must work on his shot in the 20- to 23-foot range; on some possessions Atlanta played far off him, not concerned about him firing from three-point range.
After Bobby Brown was inactive vs. Portland, Pauls injury necessitated his elevation into the rotation as the backup point guard. Brown played one of his better games of the young season, with 13 points and seven assists. His plus-minus was a team-best +9 and he seemed more cautious about launching shots early in the shot clock.
Marcus Thornton scored 12 points in 18 minutes, going 4-for-10 from the field. You have to like his attacking approach on offense, but one learning curve for him may be tightening his shot selection. In the first half, he took two deep three-pointers early in the shot clock. They werent necessarily bad shots, but they were the kind of looks that Thornton should be able to get virtually any time he wants, since he can beat many defenders off the dribble.
David West was snakebit on his close-range shot attempts. He finished 4-for-17 and scored eight points, misfiring on at least a handful of point-blank layups. Just one of those frustrating games for the two-time All-Star power forward.
Peja Stojakovics peaks and valleys in the shooting department continued. He was fantastic from the perimeter in Atlanta, going 10-for-17 (4-for-9 on treys) and tallying a team-best 25 points. He poured in 15 points in the first quarter.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES (courtesy Atlanta Hawks)
Head Coach Jeff Bower
The Hawks are a good team. They really know how to use their length and athleticism. Its impressive how good they are defensively. Theyre playing some of the best basketball in the league right now. We just werent effective during certain stretches of the game.
Were putting ourselves in position to win games. We just have to do it for longer stretches. We gave up a lot of fast break points tonight. Thats something that needs to be corrected.
We were trying to figure out how to try and stay in the game and get a win. Particularly now, with Chris (Paul) being injured, we all have to figure out how to step it up on both ends of the floor. Coach is putting in different things for us on the fly, and right now we just have to be able to catch those things.
Certain moments we looked good, but we still have a long way to go, especially on the defensive end. We were definitely beat on the boards tonight. The Hawks are playing good basketball, and the entire team is getting involved. Right now theyre on a roll. You have to give them credit.