Big Easy Buzz Blog - January 21, 2012 postgame: Mavericks 83, Hornets 81

Saturday, January 21, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
Mavericks (10-7), Hornets (3-13)

It was over when… Jarrett Jack grabbed the rebound off his intentionally-missed free throw, but came up short on an all-in-one-motion attempt from the middle of the lane that would’ve forced overtime. Jack’s miss capped another low-scoring, painfully close loss for the Hornets as they tried to halt a losing streak, which has climbed to seven games. New Orleans trailed by 11 points through three quarters, but rallied all the way back into a tie before Dallas escaped with a nail-biting victory.

Hornets MVP: Emeka Okafor enjoyed his best game of 2011-12, grabbing a season-best 17 rebounds (including 6 offensive boards) while equaling his top scoring game with 16 points. The surprising aspect of Okafor’s 16-point output was that a few of his seven field goals came on mid-range jumpers. Okafor often shies away from taking those shots, but found himself in position several times to get off open looks from that area of the floor.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Carl Landry delivered an intense performance that featured 19 points and 13 rebounds. Landry may be the best player on the team in terms of being able to draw fouls and get to the free-throw line, a skill he displayed against the Mavs. The 6-foot-9 power forward was 9-for-13 from the charity stripe. The trait is valuable not just for the points it yields, but also for getting the opposition into the penalty earlier in quarters, leading to additional free throws for New Orleans.

The buzz on… an odd way to string together losses. Most NBA teams that go through a stretch similar to the current 1-13 span of the Hornets throw in multiple embarrassing one-sided defeats, a telltale sign of a club that is simply overmatched. One baffling aspect of a forgettable January has been that New Orleans instead is competitive in virtually every game. The Hornets seemed to have a reasonable chance at victory in every fourth quarter this week, but the bottom-line result was losses to Portland, Memphis, Houston and Dallas. Many NBA analysts measure teams' true ability by point differential – how many points a team averages minus how many it allows. Illogically, the Hornets have actually improved their average scoring margin this week, because they lost by 7, 6, 2 and 2 points, respectively. Entering Saturday’s game vs. Dallas, they were minus-4.9 points per game. Some of the Hornets’ inability to secure victories in crunch time can be attributed to having so many new players, along with the fact that they’re one of the least-experienced teams in the league. After Saturday's loss, Trevor Ariza summed up the team's recent fortunes. "A play here and there, it's pretty much the same story," he said. "We're just not closing games out the way we know we can. That's the story of our season so far."

Shootaround: Jan. 21 vs. Mavericks

News from Saturday morning’s shootaround in the New Orleans Arena:

• On the injury front, Monty Williams said of Xavier Henry: “There’s a great chance we’ll see him next week. He continues to progress. We don’t want to just put him on the floor just to get a look at him; we think he can help us.” Williams on Eric Gordon: “We’re just waiting right now.”

• Williams on the monitoring of Trevor Ariza, who has totaled 84 minutes in two games after missing the previous two weeks with a groin injury: “He’s just got to keep (the injured area) warm, and I’ve got to find him some rest. He was OK (Thursday at Houston).”

• The Hornets are shooting a meager 27.5 percent from three-point range, after hitting 36.0 percent last season. After reviewing the film, Williams believes the quality of shot attempts has been acceptable, but the Hornets just aren’t making them. “We’ve had some looks that most teams would die for,” he said. “We’re just missing them. I get a flak for us not scoring points, but when I look at the film, we get (good) shots. We just have to knock them down.”

• Due to the shrunken preseason and the rush to be ready for the regular season, Williams wonders if some NBA teams will become more effective offensively later than usual in 2011-12. “At this point in a normal season, this is where teams start to click,” he said. “In reality, this is really (comparable to) the sixth or seventh game in a normal season. I think about 20 games in, those (shooting percentages) will start to go up a bit, when guys get into shape.”