Through three quarters tonight, there was very little reason to believe that any of the Hornets reserves would factor into the games deciding moments. New Orleans (9-11) reserves had combined for two points over the first 36 minutes, on a combined 1-for-8 shooting.
Despite that meager production, it said something about the Hornets that backup Darius Songaila ended up scoring the game-winning basket off a feed from fellow second-unit player James Posey. Another reserve, rookie Marcus Thornton, also figured prominently during crunch time.
Songailas layup with 11 seconds remaining gave the Hornets a 96-94 lead and gave him nine points in the fourth quarter. Thornton, who was scoreless prior to the final quarter, delivered eight points of his own. Add in a Posey three-pointer, and the New Orleans bench produced 20 fourth-quarter points following its near-invisible production prior to that.
Songaila in particular was relied on heavily by Jeff Bower when the outcome was at stake. Songaila only played 11 minutes over the first three quarters, but was on the floor for all but 40 seconds of the fourth quarter. In several games recently, hes played considerably more in the fourth quarter than he has earlier in the game, and the results have usually been positive, with him making key plays on both ends of the floor.
Thats what Darius does, Chris Paul said after the Hornets sixth straight home win.
Its no surprise to me. Ive known Darius longer than anyone on our team, Paul added, referencing the early 2000s when Songaila played for Wake Forest and Paul was a high school star in Winston-Salem, N.C. Thats what hes done, ever since hes been in the league. He defends, rebounds and make shots.
Meanwhile, Thornton had a rough first three quarters and hadnt played well since his 24-point eruption at Miami two weeks ago but regained his footing to help New Orleans shake off the persistent Kings.
It says a lot, Paul noted of the way Thornton played after struggling of late. Hes learning. Weve got the ultimate confidence in him. Im excited that hes making progress.
Things have changed drastically for the Louisiana State product over the past few weeks: Early in the regular season, he was logging DNPs, but now hes being allowed to play through poor stretches and getting his number called late in tight games.
This is the NBA youre going to have stretches where you dont shoot well, said Thornton, who was on the floor for the entire fourth period. But I made it up for it by rebounding. There are other things I have to do besides scoring. The coaches felt comfortable in me leaving me out there in the fourth quarter.
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