Big Easy Buzz Blog - February 16, 2011 postgame: Blazers 103, Hornets 96

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
Trail Blazers (32-24), Hornets (33-25)

It was over when… Wesley Matthews grabbed a defensive rebound, was fouled and made 1 of 2 free throws to give the Trail Blazers an eight-point lead with 29 seconds remaining. Portland technically leapfrogged New Orleans and moved into fifth place in the Western Conference with a slightly higher winning percentage, though both teams are eight games over .500 and the Hornets still hold a 2-1 head-to-head edge. The Hornets lost for the ninth time in their last 11 games.

Hornets MVP: Willie Green equaled his season-high in scoring with 24 points, this time on 11-for-19 shooting from the field. He also had six rebounds and logged a season-high 41 minutes. Since taking over the starting shooting guard role from Marco Belinelli at New Jersey, Green has shot 37-for-70 (52.9 percent), including 7-for-20 (35 percent) from three-point range.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Jarrett Jack was the lone reserve who played significant minutes. Jack finished with 12 points, five rebounds and three assists, while playing 31 minutes. Jack was part of the small-ball group that also included Chris Paul, Green, Trevor Ariza and David West, a quintet that helped New Orleans get back in the game in the second quarter.

The buzz on… a reversal of fortunes in close games. The ability to win one- or two-possession games has been a trademark of the Hornets in recent years, but that knack for coming through in the clutch has been lacking recently. Although Wednesday’s loss technically does not fall into the category because it was a three-possession final margin, it was another example of a contest that was anyone’s game in the fourth quarter but went the way of NOLA’s opposition. The Hornets are 1-4 in their last five games decided by six points or fewer, a stretch that dates back to the momentum-turning Jan. 29 loss in Sacramento. Prior to that, NOLA had won five consecutive close games.

One of the frustrating aspects of NOLA’s 2-9 stretch heading into the All-Star break is that the Hornets have been in virtually every game. Of the 11 games, New Orleans has trailed by double figures entering the fourth quarter just twice (vs. Minnesota, at Golden State). Over the course of the entire 2010-11 regular season, entering Wednesday New Orleans had a fourth-quarter average scoring margin of minus 0.4, ranking 19th in the NBA out of 30 teams.

Blog question of the night: For the second time in 2010-11, the Hornets have followed up an impressive winning streak with a stretch where the losses have outnumbered the victories. After beginning 8-0, NOLA went through an 8-12 span that left the Hornets at 16-12 overall. Is it encouraging to know that the team has bounced back once before from something similar? Or are there legitimate reasons to be more concerned about this recent losing spell than the one that occurred in December?