Hornets.com postgame: Hornets 96, Kings 94

Tuesday, December 8, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Through three quarters tonight, there was very little reason to believe that any of the Hornets’ reserves would factor into the game’s 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.

Songaila’s 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, he’s 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.

“That’s what Darius does,” Chris Paul said after the Hornets’ sixth straight home win.

“It’s no surprise to me. I’ve 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. “That’s what he’s done, ever since he’s been in the league. He defends, rebounds and make shots.”

Meanwhile, Thornton had a rough first three quarters – and hadn’t 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. “He’s learning. We’ve got the ultimate confidence in him. I’m excited that he’s 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 he’s being allowed to play through poor stretches and getting his number called late in tight games.

“This is the NBA – you’re going to have stretches where you don’t 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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