Big Easy Buzz Blog - December 16, 2009

Benches could be key factor vs. Pistons

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
Depth has been sorely lacking at times for New Orleans over the past several years, but following another solid performance by the reserves Monday in Dallas (the subs outscored their Maverick counterparts 39-20), Hornets head coach Jeff Bower is optimistic about what the second unit will able to contribute this season.

“We were pleased with their performance. They gave us the spark we needed,” said Bower, whose bench helped erase an early 21-point deficit at Dallas. “We’d like to think (the bench) is developing into an asset for us.”

New Orleans (10-13) hosts a Detroit (11-13) team tonight (7 p.m., New Orleans Arena) that brings several of its most talented players off the bench, meaning the Hornets’ backups will face a daunting challenge. Detroit’s fourth- and fifth-leading scorers, Charlie Villanueva and Will Bynum, come off the bench. The Pistons’ third-leading scorer, Ben Gordon, is an occasional reserve as well, but has been out since Dec. 6 due to injury.

The Pistons started the regular season poorly, including a seven-game losing streak that was capped by a home loss to the Clippers on Nov. 27. Since then, however, Detroit has gone 6-2, highlighted by wins over Atlanta and Denver.

“They’ve been very successful lately, winning a lot of games,” Bower said. “They’ve got explosive power coming out of their guard positions. Up front, they’ve got a blend of rebounding and scoring. It will be a great test for us.” postgame: Hornets 95, Pistons 87

Over the first few weeks of the regular season, when the Hornets played poorly early in games, it usually snowballed, resulting in numerous one-sided defeats. Lately though, an initial deficit hasn’t meant the night was over for New Orleans. For a second straight game, the Hornets fell behind by double digits in the first half, before mounting a significant rally. Though Monday’s comeback at Dallas came up four points short, the outcome tonight was a much-needed home victory.

New Orleans (11-13) outscored Detroit (11-14) by a 53-32 margin in the second half, erasing what had been a 16-point hole in the second quarter. The Hornets snapped a two-game losing streak.

During the Hornets’ 3-8 start, they lost five times by 15 points or more. Since then, they’ve only had two such defeats, including a 17-point loss to New York that was a bit misleading because the Knicks closed the game on an 18-0 run.

“We’re growing as a team,” said Darius Songaila, who again came through in the fourth quarter with big plays. He totaled four points and eight rebounds. “We’re learning to play after we get down by 15 or 20 points, or whatever it is. I wish we weren’t getting into that situation, but the last few games we’ve put together pretty good second halves.”

Songaila noted that the Hornets’ chemistry appears to be improving, as the players and coaches familiarize themselves with each other. New Orleans added six new players this offseason, including rotation members Songaila, Emeka Okafor, Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison.

“We’re getting better as a second unit, and the coaches are learning who needs to be on the court in the pressure situations, and when we need defensive stops,” Songaila said.

Lately, that’s meant a fourth-quarter lineup of Songaila, James Posey, Chris Paul, David West and Peja Stojakovic. The first two players have focused on shutting down the opposition; it worked again against the Pistons, who only mustered 14 points in the fourth quarter.

“We’re doing our job on defense,” a smiling Songaila said of himself and Posey. “And we’re letting guys like Chris, Peja and D-West do the work on offense. The combination seems to be working.”