Five Observations: Hornets 107, SuperSonics 93

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

New Orleans raced to a 19-point halftime advantage and went up by as many as 26 points in the second half, dominating Seattle and ending a three-game road losing streak. The Hornets improved to 16-10 overall and 9-5 on the road.

Incidentally, the Hornets held a team bowling outing in Seattle on Tuesday. A few players said half-jokingly that the event may have helped the squad on the court. Chris Paul boasted that he led Hornets players by rolling a 231 game.

“Bowling was fun, but I don’t have a lot of competition on this team,” Paul wryly said in the locker room. “Julian Wright was talking a lot of junk (about his bowling prowess), but after I put up a 231, he didn’t have a lot to say.”

Paul gave the Hornets and their fans a brief scare late in the fourth quarter when he landed awkwardly and appeared to tweak his left knee. Moments later, he stood near the team bench and appeared fine. Paul said he was briefly startled by the play, but was OK. He also alluded to his negative past experiences with injuries in games vs. the SuperSonics.

“I haven’t had a good history here in Seattle,” said Paul, who rolled his ankle last season in KeyArena when he stepped on Johan Petro’s foot. CP3 also hurt his ribs as a rookie vs. the SuperSonics. “I think I’m done (playing) here,” Paul joked.

Five observations from the 14-point victory in Seattle:

1) Early defensive performance the “Key” to road triumph.
The 93 total points the Hornets allowed Wednesday was very deceptive in terms of assessing their defensive performance at Seattle’s KeyArena. They only gave up 33 first-half points, which enabled them to establish control of the contest before intermission. Seattle broke loose somewhat during a second half that was much more up-tempo and scattered. The SuperSonics only put up 17 points in the first quarter and followed that up with a 16-point second period. The Hornets did a credible job on Sonics leading scorer Kevin Durant, who scored 15 points on 7-for-15 shooting. Seattle was minus-26 with Durant on the floor Wednesday.

2) Hornets receive high marks in hustle categories.
New Orleans clearly demonstrated more energy and aggressiveness than its hosts, particularly in the first half. Seattle looked sluggish early and was booed by its home fans after one unsightly stretch late in the second quarter. One play typified the Hornets’ hustling attitude during that stretch: despite being about 20 feet behind Seattle’s Earl Watson on a semi-fast break, Rasual Butler tracked down the Sonics’ starting point guard and stole the ball from behind. It appeared as though no Sonics player alerted Watson that Butler was approaching from Watson’s blindside, allowing Butler to swipe the ball.

New Orleans also blocked eight shots (David West had five) and made 11 steals (Paul grabbed four).

3) Morris Peterson goes ballistic again from three-point land.
Seattle received an up-close look at why New Orleans’ long-term prospects look very good. The club’s three 20-something stars – Chris Paul, 22; Tyson Chandler, 25; and David West, 27 – each finished with a double-double against the Sonics. Paul put together another dazzling performance with 21 points and 15 assists. Chandler dominated in the paint with 16 points and 17 rebounds. West turned in a solid 17-point, 11-rebound, six-assist outing. His 15-point first half powered the Hornets to their 19-point halftime lead.

4) Foundation of Hornets’ future delivers three double-doubles.
Seattle received an up-close look at why New Orleans’ long-term prospects look very good. The club’s three 20-something stars – Chris Paul, 22; Tyson Chandler, 25; and David West, 27 – each finished with a double-double against the Sonics. Paul put together another dazzling performance with 21 points and 15 assists. Chandler dominated in the paint with 16 points and 17 rebounds. West turned in a solid 17-point, 11-rebound, six-assist outing. His 15-point first half powered the Hornets to their 19-point halftime lead.

5) The buzz on… Ryan Bowen.
Hornets TV sideline reporter Jordy Hultberg describes Bowen as “the ultimate utility man,” based on his willingness to do whatever the team needs on a game-to-game basis. New Orleans was 9-5 at the time of Bowen’s injury (sprained knee) and has missed the Iowa product’s hustle and energy. The Hornets are now 7-5 without Bowen in action, but his absence has been made more glaring by the subsequent loss to injury of Melvin Ely (fractured eye socket).

Bowen is hoping to be back on the practice floor within a week or two. He resumed running on Friday. He has been limited physically by his injury, but has been swimming in order to remain in shape.

HORNETS OT
Periodically throughout the season, we’ll be discussing questions and comments by callers to the Hornets Radio Network’s postgame show, “Hornets OT.” Fans can discuss the team after games by calling (504) 593-4910.

Ken from New Orleans called in to ask about the Hornets' 2007-08 schedule. He wondered why the Hornets play against some teams in the Western Conference four times, but only three times vs. some West teams. Here's the simplest way to explain it:
  • Like all NBA teams, the Hornets have 82 games on their regular season schedule.
  • There are 15 Eastern Conference teams. The Hornets automatically play each of them twice a season, equaling 30 games.
  • The remaining 52 games are against Western Conference opponents. Every team plays the other four squads in their division exactly four times apiece, meaning New Orleans plays a total of 16 games every season against Southwest Division counterparts Dallas, Houston, Memphis and San Antonio.
  • After you subtract the 16 division games from the 52 Western Conference games the Hornets play each season, that leaves 36 games. Those 36 games are divided among the 10 teams that comprise the Northwest and Pacific divisions of the Western Conference. Six of those teams face the Hornets four times (24 games), while four others will only play the Hornets three times each (12 games). As a result, there are always four Western teams that match up against New Orleans just three times in a given season, on a rotating basis. That explains why Denver and Sacramento only make one trip to the Big Easy in 2007-08. It also explains why Wednesday's game in Seattle was the Hornets' lone trip to the state of Washington this season.



Hornets in Seattle to try to regain early-season road success


En route to the best overall start in franchise history, the Hornets served notice around the league when they captured eight wins in their first 10 road outings. Since that 8-2 stretch, however, New Orleans has dropped three consecutive away games in December, at Denver, Dallas and Portland.

The Hornets will try to end their three-game road skid at 9 p.m. in Seattle tonight. The SuperSonics (7-18) are currently going through some of the growing pains expected from a team in rebuilding mode, but they’ve been a competitive 5-4 since starting the season 2-14.

Once again, SuperSonics.com’s Kevin Pelton invited me onto Seattle’s official site to discuss the Hornets.

I’ll be back following the game tonight with more postgame analysis from Seattle.