Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Give it to Nash, I mean, Paul!

New Orleans 101 | Phoenix 98

NOH: 15-9 (15-10 as of posting)

The first record in today's title references the Hornet's combined win/loss versus Phoenix, San Antonio, and Dallas last year. Guess what the second one is?

I used this well-researched tidbit to hide the fact that I've been slacking (actually, that's not true... it showed up in a weekly power ranking on I think). I started this blog to write about all of the home games (which of course represents half of the games played), and I can't even stay on top of that. Due to travel I did miss two close (albeit exciting) match-ups that resulted in victories versus Memphis and Seattle. Following that, they lost a heartbreaker in Denver and dropped to 1-1 versus Dallas. Then the Hornets came home to battle Phoenix. Now, anyone who knows me knows that I used to be a die hard fan for men in D'Antoni's squad. In case your wondering how some kid on the bayou managed to even see a Phoenix game, let alone become a fan of their team, read on.

When I was a kid, the NBA was non-existent in Louisiana. I missed being a Jazz fan by 6 years--which ended up being ok since the franchise left the Crescent City in 1979 to relocate in the owner's wife's home state: Utah (resulting in the dumbest city/mascot relationship until the Tennessee Oilers... actually, no, it's worse than that). As a result, when I became interested in the sport and wanted a team to follow I looked to the great state of Texas... since most professional Texas team's are broadcast in Louisiana I was already a fan of the Rangers (Juan Gonzalez was my hero), so Dallas seemed like the logical place to start. I immediately latched on to the Mavericks because of the Nash/Nowitski thing. I was mesmerized by how they worked together. Having only been to NCAA games, I had no idea how much better the players were when you jumped up a level. I just couldn't get enough of the no-look passing and alley-oops (I spelled that phonetically, so shut up if it's wrong). Then, the split came. Nash was dealt to the Suns while Dirk was left to cry in Dallas. What did I do? Well, if you're keeping tabs, I should have just switched to being a Hornets fan since they had relocated a year before the Maverick's schism... but that's not what happened. At the end of the day, I followed Nash... partly because I liked his off-the-court personality better and partly because I've always secretly wanted to be a great point-guard. It's true, I'd rather wow the audience with an insane pass than be the guy who gets the dunk as a result of it. Anyway, I stuck with the Suns until my move to New Orleans when I decided that I couldn't stand to be a sports bigamist. Goddammit, this is my home now: this is my team (I said it just like that, too).

Flash back to Saturday night. I've never been so excited about an NBA game in my life. I was giddy beyond belief. The prospect of seeing the league's two best point guards go head to head (that's right... I said CP3 is the second best point guard... but don't take my word for it; ask my man Hollinger). Actually, they never really faced off one-on-one because of the way each team plays. The disparity in play was actually almost as exciting as seeing these two stars since there appeared to be no-guarantees as to how the evening would progress. The Suns are known for their high-octane style of play that pushes slowwer teams to the edge. They fire shots relentlessly (though with a little more sanity than Nellie's Warriors) and they force teams to play at uncomfortable paces. The Hornets, meanwhile, run what has to be the slowest offense in the league. They play mind games with the defense by holding and moving the ball from the key to the perimeter and back again.

The reason the Hornets ultimately prevailed actually had little to do with the discrepancies between the two teams' style of play (which could have resulted in a major advantage for one club). And while the Hornets established a pretty solid lead throughout most of the first half, each team took over the pace for periods of time during the second half leading to a game of back and forth for the last twenty minutes or so. No, the reason the Hornets pulled this one out is... (sit down, you are not going to believe this)... is... (I swear this next sentence is true and not a joke)... the HOME CROWD carried them in the final minutes of the game. It's not about who wanted it more (which it never is) or who was more talented (which it sometimes is), it was about who had the most people screaming in their respective corner. The arena was fairly packed (though not sold out) and the fans went nuts the whole game. I had only recently accepted the fact that we are having attendance issues (although I heard Miami is beating us in the fickle fan base race), and I was moving on from my "we don't actually have a problem" rants to much more informed journalists. As such, my world was turned upside down. When I glanced from the court to the stands, I didn't sigh in disgust or grunt in sarcasm... I smiled. Is this what it's like to be a fan of a winning team that matters? Time will only tell.

Actually, time might have to be put on hold because I'm missing Saturday's re-match with the T-Wolves--partly because I'd rather not have flashbacks to the previous encounter and partly because... well, that's mostly why. Anyway, I don't anticipate a sellout for that match-up, but I am expecting larger contingencies for the ensuing games against Toronto and Cleveland (both of which I will be missing due to travel... though I will blog from afar).

What's the bottom line? New Orleans beat an excellent team due partly to their HOME COURT ADVANTAGE. This is a big deal. Despite another inexplicable road loss to Portland Monday night (I think Portland's just better than they let on), I think big things still lay in store for this crew.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Motown Got Game

Detroit 91 | New Orleans 76

Thanks to all you fans out there who were emailing me begging to me to stop missing Hornets games and start blogging more often. Actually there were no emails. So permit me to amend that last statement. Thank you fans; I've no doubt your silence is indicative of trust and support. After all, if you disagreed with what I wrote, you'd probably let me know, right? Since you've been anything but noisy I can only assume you are all on board. Allons y!

So, if you are truly a Hornet's fan, you don't need a recap of Monday's game versus Dallas. If you aren't (or sleep in a cardboard box) this href="" > linkmight help. We actually pulled that one off after downing Atlanta with a solid outing.

Then Detroit came to town. Actually, that isn't really the next part of the story. Ok, actually it is, but it isn't of any real importance. The Hornet's held Detroit to 16 points in the first quarter (leading by as many as 12 along the way) and maintained their 10 point lead up until the end of the first half, when Detroit cut it in half. Then the third quarter started. We are notoriously awful in the third quarter. I'm actually very curious to know if this is a common trend (a sort of natural low point in the game) or if it's more of a "we just have to suck for 12 minutes out of the game, so it might as well be then" kind of thing. Honestly, we were outscored 17 to 22, not to mention they had us by a pretty comfortable margin in all other categories as well. And though we never actually trailed by more than 12 until the final ninety seconds or so, we all but went belly-up. How is that possible? I have no clue. We completely lost our rhythm. It wasn't quite the train wreck that the Minnesota game was, but you just couldn't help but sit there and think "there is no way we can pull this off". As per usual, we were graced with pretty poor officiating (a few calls were just absurd... you can't tell me a triple-team on Chris Paul that pushes him out of bounds results in an offensive foul), but it did not disrupt the flow of the game in any measurable way (I think we can thank Dick Bavetta for that).

So we learned that Rip and Sheed are deadly from anywhere on the court, Jason Maxiell is pretty impressive off the bench, and the Hornet's need someone to step up in difficult games (beyond Tyson's 20-15 showing) for us to really oust the big contenders. I should be more worried about our position right now, but honestly, we're still in a good place. Despite what Mr. Hollinger's ridiculous href=""> play-off prediction machine might suggest, we win 2 out of every 3 (so far... and this weekend brings Memphis and Seattle to town, so that should stay the same), and when we lose, it's usually to difficult teams. Besides, we are still playing the non-contender role that everyone writes off even though we are presently a 4 seed. Things are good.

Attendance still sucks though. I've accepted that we have a problem, but I don't know how rehab works for this kind of thing. As if our attendance woes weren't enough, Detroit had an unusually large contingency of fans at the game considering they're from another conference and play about 1000 miles away. Seriously, if anyone knows how this is possible, they should email me because it's been keeping me up at night. Sort of. I mean, we saw more than one person in a Red Wings jersey. Hockey. Whaaat?

Ok, I was going to go into trade musings I've been playing around with on the ESPN trade machine, but I have to catch a flight up to St. Louis, so I must be departing (Curry, you know you're laughing right now). I'll cover that next time and possibly give a run down of the two games I'll be missing this weekend (oh, you silent legions are too much). See you on the 15... after a totally unpredictable game against Phoenix. Nash versus Paul... wouldn't miss it for the world.