Big Easy Buzz Blog - January 16, 2012 postgame: Blazers 84, Hornets 77

Monday, January 16, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
Blazers (8-5), Hornets (3-10)

It was over when… Portland’s Wesley Matthews swished a fadeaway mid-range jumper to put the visitors in front 84-73 with about 1:40 remaining. With New Orleans struggling mightily to put together consecutive effective offensive possessions, a double-digit deficit usually spells major trouble. The Hornets lost their fourth consecutive game and will host Memphis on Wednesday.

Hornets MVP: You certainly couldn’t fault Jarrett Jack’s effort in this one. Jack had one sequence in the fourth quarter where he was knocked hard to the floor three times in a span of about two minutes of real time. He kept driving into the paint though, trying to spearhead New Orleans’ fourth-period comeback attempt. The point guard’s eight points in the fourth quarter staked the Hornets to a 26-20 edge, but it wasn’t enough. Jack finished the afternoon with 21 points (9-for-10 on free throws) and four assists.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Chris Kaman had statistically the best game among the reserves with 12 points and six rebounds. He also received the in-arena sixth-man award. But he was 6-for-15 from the field, so I’d give a slight edge to Gustavo Ayon. The native of Mexico contributed eight points and five rebounds, going 4-for-5 from the field in 20 minutes. He had two assists, but it seemed like more, as Ayon again showed his excellent floor sense and ability to find open teammates. Overall, he provided a spark that was greatly needed after the starting unit got off to a poor offensive start.

The buzz on… a sputtering starting five. With the Hornets digging themselves early holes in several games recently, Monty Williams decided to move energetic, hustling Jason Smith into the first unit vs. Portland. Williams said he was hopeful Smith’s approach would help the starters get out of the gate more quickly, but at least in this game, it didn’t work. It took New Orleans nearly 10 minutes to put up double-digit points, a sluggish beginning that set the tone for Monday’s defeat. Part of the problem is that it’s been a chore lately to predict which group of players will perform well from game to game. In Monday’s loss, four reserves (Ayon, Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Greivis Vasquez) played as much or more than two starters (Smith, Marco Belinelli). Only Jack was on the floor for more than 30 minutes. It’s only 13 games into the season, but everyone on the roster has already been part of the rotation. “There’s no one on our team who can say they haven’t had a chance to prove themselves,” Williams said. “Opportunities in this league don’t come often. Some guys will look back at this time and kick themselves, because they didn’t play with the passion and energy they need to play with. This is a golden opportunity for a few guys, who might not ever get this chance again.”