Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wash U is Division III Champ

You've got to love Division III basketball. A bunch of white guys who were no way near good enough to start at a state school, but still have skills and happen to have above average intelligence. It's remarkable how a group of guys who have no hope for a career in basketball and not much of a fan base can play with such drive and energy. The stage may be small, but as of March 22, 2008 the Wash U Bears are the kings of that stage. My Alma Mater has taken the crown.

After I don't even know how many drunken trips to the Athletic Complex, after god knows how many offensive and terrible things screamed at the opponents and the refs, after.... hell, who cares. We won the damn thing. And though I may be sad that I wasn't there to witness it, I'm glad Troy Ruths got a ring and some major props as D3 player of the year (which he can add to his First Team All American and NCAA Championship MVP).

Division III: where Troy Ruths happens.

I totally said hi to him once at a Thai restaurant on Delmar Street. Oh god. I sound like a 15 year-old girl. Let's move on.

The Wash U men's and women's teams have actually been very good in the past few years (last season we became only the second school to send both of its teams to the final four... but then both teams lost in the finals). So congrats to the crew: to Tyler Nading, to Aaron Thompson, to Danny O'Boyle, to Troy Ruths, and to Coach Edwards. Job well done, guys. I knew Mike, Sam, and I hadn't consumed all of that bourbon in vain.

(You probably don't care, but here's a recap and a box score.)


And now for something relevant to the title of this blog.

The Hornets just polished off the Cavaliers in a nail biter of a game Final score: 100 to 99. LeBron was able to keep it close (actually he had a little help from Big Z in the form of 29 points), but in the end, D.West would hit the winning jumper with 0.6 seconds left in the fourth. Tag it and bag it. Despite the Hornet's win completing the "sweep" of the Cavs in the regular season, LeBron ranks (to this committee of me) as the team I'd least like to to play if we make it to the finals. I saw him beat the Pistons last year. And he's better this year. And he probably hasn't reached his ceiling yet. Terrifying.

Oh yeah... we beat the Pacers last night as well. The spread wasn't as much as I thought it'd be, but a "W" is a "W". Plus David dropped 35 points and grabbed 16 boards. And after tonight's performance of 20 points, he's averaging 31 since returning from injury (over 3 games).


One final thought before I leave you. Since most of you probably frequent more than this blog, you've probably seen the David Thorpe article advising rookies on who they should study to reach their potential. I don't care if you've read it. I'm still going to link the entry for JuJu. You'll just have to follow the link if you want to know who his "mentor" should be.

See you this weekend for a recap of the second encounter with the Celtics.


Oh wait. This is the first entry where I didn't say Chris Paul. Or CP3. Oh wait. Damn.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Statement Game

New Orleans 113 | Boston 106
[league standings]

Since March 12, the Hornets have wins against the Spurs, the Lakers, the Rockets, and the Celtics (ok, and the Bulls; but that doesn't really inform what I'm about to say). Within that stretch, they also lost a not-even-remotely-close game against the Pistons. My point? In the span of ten days the Hornets went 4-1 against the toughest and highest seeded teams from both conferences (with the exception of Utah... who will be a 4 seed almost by default due to the sluggishness of their division). That's an unbelievable statement to anyone who doubts the abilities of this team. I know the playoffs haven't happened yet, and I know this team still has a lot to prove, but let's face it, they're winning. And they're winning against good teams. In fact, it seems like every game I've been to in the past few weeks has been "the greatest game ever!". It's like Christmas every damn day. It's fantastic.

However, this win in particular is quite exciting. I was hoping we'd have a chance to play the Celtics earlier in the season; the thought being that wouldn't have gelled yet. That particular line of logic proved to be stupid, as it took the Boston didn't lose it's tenth game until February 19. So, knowing that "chemistry" and "gel-ingness" was not an issue (for them, at least), my worries to shifted to the probable player matchups. My main concern was that Peja was going to have to cover Paul Pierce. Normally we would slide Mo Pete over to cover small forwards that go to town on Peja, but that whole Ray Allen thing screwed up that approach. This fear was further compounded during the game by the fact that (A) Kevin Garnett boxed D.West out of every rebound ever and (B) Rajon Rondo ended up being much better at the point than I expected. Hell, I can't lie; I love his style of play. He's quick, he's aggressive, he drives, he drains threes, and he is pretty good at exploiting the ridiculous amount of double teams on the big three. As scary as all of this was, nothing could have prepared me for the first three quarters of this game.

All season, I've been saying this: if any team wants to beat us, all they have to do is get in Chris Paul's head. Force him to make bad plays or force him into foul trouble. Because if you can't manage that, you'll just have to pray that one of our jump shooters is firing bricks. It's true. My brother points it out all the time: we run every play through CP3. Hell, he's probably calling plays from the bench. If you can't trip up his game, you've got no hope. The Celtics... they tripped up his game.

Paul was limited to 29 minutes of play due to foul trouble (compared to the 37.5 minutes he averages this season). It was completely frustrating. The combination of Rondo's aggressive play and the Celtic's stellar defense was forcing Paul to make bad plays. Additionally, Boston's just-as-stellar offense exacerbated the scenario, and it was visibly frustrating for Paul (and for all of us in the stands). For a moment in time, Doc Rivers looked like a genius... nah! Just kidding. Doc Rivers couldn't out-think a cocker spaniel, let alone have the foresight to write any play whatsoever. KG and Pierce run that team. It was probably their idea. Doesn't matter. It worked.

For a while at least. Then the Hornet's bench came alive, mainly in the form of Jannero Pargo (15 points, 6 assists) and Bonzi Wells (13 points and 8 steals). I'm actually convinced that Bonzi single handedly saved this game on account of his sticky fingers. Nevertheless, the bench was able to score fairly well and kept the gap at/around 10 points all the way through the third. When Paul returned in the third he only had 7 points and 2 assists, but he would would finish the game with 19 and 7. Add that to D.West's 37 points and... Boom! Tag it and bag it.

A friend of mine, Ron Hitley, who runs Hornets 24/7 has a nice entry that covers the steadily increasing attendance (scroll down for the graph) as well as a worthwhile youtube clip.

In case anyone out there is wondering how to beat the Celts without any of the Hornets on your roster, consider booing Boston for a whole quarter. That's right. Similar to our strategy against the Spurs, Hornets fans booed the Celtics for almost ten straight minutes of regulation play. The fans were already restless by the time the third ended, feeling as though the refs had unfairly targeted CP3 and managed to forget about KG, so the booing came naturally. However, the catalyst went a little something like this: Paul steals the ball, fastbreaks to the paint, and then kicks it out to Peja for an open trey. Peja drains it. Three points? Nope. Paul is called for an offensive foul, after passing the ball, for running into one Rajon Rondo (who was in motion). The refs called back the three, the fans (all 18,200 of them) went to work. And you know what? The Celtics couldn't focus (honestly, who could focus under such a barrage of negative energy). Done and done. It's an effective strategy considering it held the Spurs to 10 points and the Celtics to 17... just a thought.

The "W" puts the reinstates the Hornets as the 1 seed in the western conference and put us into the 2 slot in both Stein's and's power rankings... second to the Celtics. We'll see what happen in the rematch on Friday.


The next home game isn't until April 4 (almost two weeks). Expect coverage of the away games over that stretch, but don't expect it to be sober since we have find bars for this wretched [read "expensive"] entity that is NBA League Pass. Cheers!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Directed by Steve Nash

There's a reason why that lucky number 13 jersey still hides in my closet instead of being thrown to the masses on ebay. There's a reason I followed man behind that number from Dallas to Phoenix. All along I assumed my fascination was with the brilliant court vision, sick no-look passing, run-and-gun style, pull up to drain a three kind of guy. But no. It isn't. At least not entirely.

Steve Nash is looking to filmmaking as a his next step after the nba. This Arizona Central article gives a behind the scenes look at his first piece--a nike commercial that he wrote, pitched, and produced. Check it out:

Yep, I think the two of us may be cosmic twins, separated at birth (even though we were born 13 years apart) to do wonderful things across this magnificent planet. It all makes sense now. I mean, how else could you explain the physical (and I mean, agonizing) pain I felt in games 1 and 4 against the Spurs last year.

Of course, if any of this had a shred of truth to it, it certainly would resemble the plot line of Twins, where Nash gets to be the governator and I get to be Danny DeVito. But that's not so bad, right? I mean sure, he got all the looks, talent, charisma, pure awesomeness... but at the end of the day, Steve Nash is still my twin. Everyone wins.

(I case you're confused about my fascination/love of Steve Nash, this entry should clear things up)


Few quick thoughts on the Hornets win over the Rockets Wednesday:

1. Despite his 25 points (20 in the fourth quarter alone), apparently Bonzi Wells does not attribute Wednesday's sudden spike in playing ability to the fact that the Hornet's were facing his ex-squad, although he did admit that knowing their style might have helped. Now, if only we can figure out what really sets him off like that...

2. David West made a beautiful return from an ankle injury with 23 points, 11 rebounds, a block, 2 steals, and Rafer Alston's pride.

3. If you didn't get that last reference in number 2, here were Alston's words (on TNT) before the game: We beat New Orleans and people say they were without David West... Well David West isn't a superstar. He may be a star to their team, but he's not a superstar like Yao Ming.

4. CP3's response: Tracy McGrady is a great player. If I was Rafer Alston, I'd probably ride his coattails too.

5. Julian Wright is a godsend. His defense on Tracy McGrady led to an anemic second half performance by the Rocket's leading scorer (1 for 7). Actually the whole team had trouble in the final two quarters, only scoring 25 points.

6. 69 is the lowest point total in a game for the Rockets all season

7. Chrisette Michele was everything her album promised and more. If you have the means, you should loot and plunder for a ticket to see her live. If this is impossible, you can settle for her debut album I Am and sit anxiously until her next release arrives.


Thursday, March 20, 2008


For those of you who can't get enough of the Crescent City stroking Chris Paul, now's your chance to wear your pride. Thanks to the genius of CafePress (and a little design ingenuity on my part) you can now be a part of the greatest comeback in NBA history.

Purchase the CP34MVP shirt and wear it everywhere. Wear it to work, to school, to sleep, to bars, to weddings, to galas, to prom, and even to games! Seriously, how can you go wrong? Answer: you can't. There is no markup and no one is making a dime on this (except for the cafepress people who host it). So spread the word on CP34MVP nation-wide... oh, we are going global with this, baby.

16 dollars? That's a bigger steal than the 2.73 Chris gets every game!

The Hornets have also launched Coincidence?... yeah, probably. But it is a cool site, plus they're offering an insane gift package for whoever makes the best short video about why CP3 deserves the award. All you have to do is upload your entries to their myspace page. Hmmmmm... I need to join myspace... and think of an idea...


In the totally unrelated world of links, check out John Hollinger's extremely flattering article about the Hornets quiet rise to the top of the Western Conference (as of posting we are the 1 seed since we own the tie-break with the Lakers).

And finally, there was a great article via Yahoo! that is setting the stage to make the late, great "Pistol" Pete Maravich the Chuck Norris of the NBA.

Pistol Pete's chest pass wound up being our best attack during the Vietnam War. It's too bad he never had to pass.


Coming your way: commentary/recap/poor attempt at humor for the Hornet's big W against the Rockets last night. Peace.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Big Win, No Bull[s]

New Orleans 108 | Chicago 97
[league standings]

Let the record be clear: the Bulls are much better than they appear in the standings. They have a lot of young talent, and if they can get someone in there who knows what they are doing, they might be able to mold that bunch (or at least the core) into a bona fide contender... in the East, at least. Hell, it almost happened last year.

In fact, it was the Bull's talent that nearly cleaned the Hornets out on Monday night. D. West missed yet another game (let's pray he's healthy for Wednesday against the Rockets... why does it fee like we play them every other game?) and Byron saw fit to start... wait for it... here it comes... no, not Julian Wright, even though that would have made a world of sense (he finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, going .750 from the field)... no not Melvin Ely or Hilton Armstrong, who have both been added to the endangered species list... brace yourself... we started Uncle Bowen. Again! Why? Well because he matches up so well against Drew Gooden, of course. Wait. FALSE! I feel like Bob Uecker in Major League II when he's trying to rationalize Taylor's [Tom Beringer] decision to let Rick [Charlie Sheen] walk Beck so he can face the ever dangerous Parkman: "Obviously, Taylor's thinking... I don't know what the hell he's thinking". Seriously, we almost lost because of a mismatch that Mr. Gooden rightly took advantage of to the tune of 23 points and 12 rebounds. Drew Gooden. The Duck Foot guy. Really? Actually, Tyson was also having a little trouble locking down Gooden. Probably had to do with the fact that, soaking wet, Tyson weighs half of what Gooden weighs. But seriously Byron, we're in the most heated playoff push of the millennium. Now is no time to start Ryan Bowen. I actually can't think of any appropriate scenario to start him without using the word "Knicks". And even then it's a close call.

The main reason we won is CP3 played out of his mind (which was partly due to the sudden appearance of bricks in the third quarter). Seriously, Byron actually called him a "Hall of Famer in the making" after the game. Even Tyson chimed in with some praise. Check out this quote that appeared in the Daily Dime:

It was all Chris Paul. The little man was all over the floor. It was incredible. It's one of the best performances I've seen from him yet. He, at least to me, made his bid [Monday night] to consider him the MVP.

I guess 37 points, 13 assists, and 3 steals will get you that kind of attention. Peja also showed up for 21 points; however, most of those came off the dribble as he only landed 3 of 11 from beyond the arc. We desperately needed both of these performances as Ben Gordon appeared to be on a mission from god. He single handedly (along with Duck Foot) kept this game close until the fourth by dropping 31 points (at 59% from the field). Oh, and for those of you who are wondering why the Gooden thing didn't put the Bulls over the top? I've got two words for you: Bonzi Wells. This guy is insane. He can cover any position (maybe not center... but definitely the 4) and he's extremely physical. He's aggressive in the paint and his seeming recklessness puts him at the line quite frequently. at 7 points, 4 rebounds and an 80% stroke from the stripe, he's exactly what we need (never mind his filthy dunking skills). It turns out Jeff Bower knows what he's doing... well, sort of. Ask me about that Mike James contract in two years. All the same, I never imagined the day when I would be rooting for Bonzi Wells. But that day has come. That day has come.


Unfortunately, I'll be missing Wednesday's match-up against a 23-0 or 22-1 Rockets. This may turn out to be good thing, though, as the Hornets have won all but 1 (November 21 against the Pacers) of the games I've missed at the Hive. Either way, it'll be the 1 and 2 seed in the Western Conference going head-to-head. This Chrisette Michele better be everything she's cracked up to be.

See you Wednesday. Peace.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

KB24 vs. CP3

New Orleans 108 | Los Angeles Lakers 98
[league standings]

Tag it and bag it.

The Hornet's downed the Lakers last night in what would have been the most exciting game of the year had we not had the San Antonio shootout two days earlier. We actually had a slow start as Los Angeles went up quick. Our answer to this was turnovers and poor shot selection. Remarkably, things started to turn around when Mo Pete drained a few threes. After that, we played the lead change game for the remainder of the half. After the third quarter... it was the Hornet's game.

Unfortunately, Pau Gasol went down early on in the game after rolling an ankle (he landed on Radmanovic's foot). Ordinarily, I'd be glad for our opponents having one more weakness to exploit, but I think it would have been more beneficial to us to have played their team at full strength. Usually at this point in the season, the playoff seeds start getting gobbled up and you can usually predict the first round matchups. But in today's version of the NBA, this is not possible. The seeding changes almost daily (we jumped from a 5 to a 3 seed with last night's win) and there's no real certainty about anything. Given that we could play anybody in the top nine (assuming we make the playoffs), I'd rather play healthy opponents now so at least we can learn more about the way we match-up. We were able to exploit the Lakers in Gasol's absence, but we may not have that luxury in the playoffs.

By the way, the Mavericks are currently the 7 seed in the West, and they are only 2.5 games out of the 1 seed. Let that sink in for a minute... good. Let's move on.

CP3 put up another stellar performance with 27 points, 17 assists, 4 steals, and 2 turnovers. According to the non-official source that is Curry Smith, Chris Paul has more 25, 15 performances this season (with 9) then everyone else in the league combined. Regardless, it was enough to carry the Hornets over Kobe's performance of 36 points, 3 assists, 9 rebounds. MVP performances on both counts. Beyond Paul, scoring was spread pretty even over the rest of the starters. Peja dropped 5 treys, D. West and Tyson combined for 34 rebounds, and Bonzi, Jannero, and JuJu all gave strong performances off the bench. It was a good display of team work--albeit team work that only runs through Chris Paul. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I mean, CP3 has been delivering, but (as my brother pointed out) after every rebound, whoever has the ball does this frantic look around, saying "Where's Chris Paul. Must pass to Chris Paul. Must pass to Chris Paul." Is this a reason for concern? Probably not. As I said, Paul has been phenomenal. But if he has an off night... or if he gets shaky early on... what's the backup? Do we even have one?


Bruce Bowen ended his NBA leading 500 consecutive game streak when the Spurs took the floor against the Pistons Friday night. Bowen was serving a one game suspension after the league reviewed the Paul/Bowen scuffle from Wednesday night. The suspension has been a pretty hot topic as a lot of fans around the NBA would endorse a Bowen suspension for no reason at all, let alone for the antics he pulled against the Hornets. The replay from the Hornet's feed (CST) isn't too friendly to the San Antonio side of the argument, but Spurs fans found a super slow-mo video that they feel exonerates Bowen. Take a look.

The mere fact that this video is titled "Chris Paul punches Bruce Bowen" is indicative of the split opinions in this debate. The footage from this angle shows that Bowen may not have actually kicked Chris a second time and that Paul is just as capable as flopping as any other guy in this league. Let's face it. Most [good] players can sell a foul. Actually, in this scenario Chris didn't, but you get the point. I certainly didn't see Paul "punch" Bowen... in fact, I'm not really sure where that accusation even came from. But let's step back: even if Bowen didn't kick him at all (and the video suggests that may be possible), how is this a foul on Paul? No clue.

Amidst all of this "discussion", one name that keeps surfacing is Julius Hodge. Can we just put this to bed? Watch this clip. Now that you have, can you honestly say that Chris Paul intentionally hit Julius Hodge in the groin? While the contact was certainly intentional, it certainly did not look like the kind of contact that was intended to harm. My assessment: Chris Paul gets physical with Hodge and inadvertently makes contact with a sensitive area. What's more is the contact looked soft (with my apologies to Hodge). For me to buy Julius' reaction from the hit I could see, I'd have to assume that Paul can flick no other... which is certainly possible. Don't get me wrong (I've got a pair myself), but there's a huge difference between doubling over in pain and rolling around on the floor for five minutes. Just like we said about Paul earlier, everyone's out to sell the refs. You be the judge.


Before I go, I wanted to share this fun link from Google Trends. It sweeps the web and quantifies the mention of players with MVP talks. Pretty cool. CP3 is ranked at a solid 3 (though I'd put him at 2, behind LeBron).

Thanks for sticking with the long post. Post some comments. Show some love. Power to the people. Check ABC tomorrow at noon. Hornets and Pistons. Bring it. Peace.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hornets Fever

Chris Rose wrote a great article in the Times Pic about Hornets fever in the Crescent City. For those of you who need more cowbell, you should give it a read.


Also, somehow I missed this stat yesterday: the Hornets held the Spurs to 8 points in the fourth quarter. Yes, Popovich put in his scrubs for some of that time, but the starters were in for at least seven and a half of those minutes. It's not quite as cool as the Hawks holding Tim Duncan and company to 5 points in the first quarter earlier this season... wait, actually it is. Atlanta ended up losing. While we're covering things I missed, check out the Southwest Division Standings [as of 03.13.08]

HOU 44-20
SA 44-20
NO 43-20
DAL 42-23
MEM 5-872

Holy crap! I'm terrified/excited/antsy/ecstatic/hungry... what a feeling.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Routing the Champs

New Orleans 100 | San Antonio 75
[league standings]

Holy crap! Holy crap! Holy crap! I feel like Irene Cara (or Jennifer Beals... whichever's funnier). I could dance right through my life. What an unbelievable game!

Picture this: two teams in a near dead heat for a home-court seed in the Wild, Wild West... in the same division. Team A has experience (as a team), an MVP, veterans, tough players, a brilliant coach, and [4] rings. Team B has gumption, an MVP-candidate, an underdog complex, a newfound sense of place, some of the loudest fans this side of the Oracle. Yes, San Antonio and New Orleans went toe-to-toe tonight. Neither team goes down without a fight. Actually, some might argue that all San Antonio does is pick fights. But that's not important.

Before I get into a detailed recap with some super fly analysis, I'd like to address the issue known as "The Spurs". Undoubtedly one of the most loathed teams in basketball, the Spurs have mastered a playing style that relies on efficiency, consistency, and tough physical play. Despite Manu and Parker's seeming flashiness, this is not a team that's after the spotlight. They're after the win. And they get it. Just look for the rings.

Unfortunately, their abilities as a team has spawned some remarkably malcontented fans. Hell, I used-to-be/kind-of-still-am one of them. I used to be a Suns fan, for crying out loud (for those of you who are confused about this, read this entry). But I have to say, they get worse than they deserve. This is because most of their critics are disgruntled fans who have the inability to see beyond the hard fouls to realize how good this team is. First off, they've been together forever and have an uncanny ability to play off of each other. They pass beautifully. Think the Suns without a clear passing leader like Nash. Everyone in San Antonio can move the ball. Add that to Duncan's unfairly criticized style and scoring ability, as well as Manu and Parker's penchant for high-flying (and often scoring) antics, and well, you might win a championship. You might even win 4.

I know, I know. You're all saying, "Lee, we know you. You hate the Spurs. You loathe them. You've threatened to kill the families of all the players, coaches, and towel boys in the past. How could you even think that last paragraph, let alone commit it to something in full view of the public?" And it's true. I don't like them. But the reason I don't like them is they play in a really physical manner that often goes unnoticed by the refs. It's a dirty style of play that can be frustrating as a fan of the opposing team since you feel as though your win column is not the only thing being threatened. Though they seem immovable at times, they can be beat. However, usually just when you think you might have a chance to beat them, one of two things happens:

1. The refs forget that fouls can be called on Duncan and that standing near him is not actually a foul.

2. One their lesser players throws a lovable superstar into a table, which then prompts caring teammates to be suspended because they stand up to see if their captain (oh captain) has been strewn into a dozen pieces all over the statisticians.

See, there's still some venom left. I just think it's unfair to hate on these guys because they're good at what they do. That is what we call being a "poor sport". That is not being a "fan". Let's move on to the game.


The first quarter featured the battle at the point with CP3 going head-to-head against Tony Parker (a good friend of his, oddly enough). Both guys were flying up and down the court, forcing lead changes with almost every possession. Parker finished the first with 13, Paul with 10.

In the second quarter, the Hornets start to pull away and the lead ceases to change hands for the rest of the game. Other players start contributing to the cause, but the highlights stay at the points with CP3 and Parker each totaling 18 for the half. The difference between the two? Assists. CP3 finished the half with 8. That was good for 7 more than Parker.

Things start to get ugly in the third. The refs had already proven that Duncan was infallible (he finished the night with 0 fouls) and that so much as looking at him funny would be cause for a foul, but they got really nasty with the whistle after the halftime. The Spurs were apparently concerned about Paul's scoring ability, so they rotated Bruce Bowen over to guard him. This resulted in many "overlooked" fouls and excessively unnecessary contact. The whole thing boiled over during a Hornets' offensive sequence when Bowen knocked the ball away from Paul. Both men (as well as Duncan) then attempted to recover the ball. In the process, Paul slips and falls while Bowen manages to straddle him and (inadvertently kick him more than once). Bowen fights the ball away from Paul, accidentally steps on him as he gives the ball to Duncan, then BOOM... foul on Chris Paul. Whaaaat? Do the math. It's ridiculous. This all follows (of course) several offensive sequences in which Bowen should at least been called for one foul... but alas, where have all the whistles gone? Oh, right we used them all to keep Duncan safe.

Now ordinarily I'd be bitter about such treatment from the refs (devoted fans will recall the entry from the Spur's first visit to NOLA this season), but not tonight. "Why", you ask? Because what the recap won't tell you is that for every ensuing San Antonio possession--and I mean EVERY--a deafening series of "boos" arose from the crowd. It was amazing. Everyone was booing at the top of their lungs. I didn't think it was going to hold out past the first few possessions after the incident, but it stayed strong until well after the scrubs entered the game. The jeering almost petered out at one point, but a ridiculous blocking foul was called on Chandler. (Tyson watched a botched San Antonio shot fly over his head toward the top of the key. He then turned to see Tim Duncan catch said miss. Tim Duncan then attempted to jump over Tyson and dunk while Tyson stood there, not having moved since the first shot. BOOM... foul on Tyson.)

After that, it was over. The Spurs were unable to make up any ground within the ever-widening gap, and Popovich smartly put in his scrubs with 4:15 to play in the fourth. It's the playoff race: you have to learn when to keep fighting and when to accept defeat. Over-working your players for a closer loss is totally unnecessary... damn, Greg Popovich knows what he's doing.

To close, CP3 put up magical numbers again (26 points, 17 assists) and David West made a strong return with 29 points and 10 boards. He appeared to be a little less trusting of his jumper than usual (which is weird because that was all he could practice while nursing his injury). In fact, he seemed to want to dribble off of every pass he fielded. Not quite the David of old, but effective enough for tonight. I'll be watching to see how this develops. And finally, JuJu appears to be heading towards the role of regular back-up. His performance was short of his recent outbursts, but it's nice to see that Byron is trusting him.


One quick stat and we're out of here to mentally prepare for the Grand Theft Spaniards on Friday.

Against the other nine teams vying for a playoff berth (that's right Portland, I'm not counting you out yet), the Hornets are 16-12. That's not terribly impressive, but it does show a winning percentage against the top tier.

Let's make it 17 on Friday.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Calm before the Storm

New Orleans 107 | New Jersey 96
[league standings]

It took the Hornets 30 minutes to get their first lead in this game. It turns out, you play to the level of your competition. The game blew open after that. CP3 put up another MVP-like stat line with 24 points, 16 assists 3 steals, and 1 turnover, not mention a perfect 11 for 11 from the stripe. In case, anyone's keeping track, Paul's averaging slightly less than 2 turnovers per game (in an average of 36.5 minutes) since the All-Star break... at the point... just saying.

Unfortunately David West was still out with an ankle injury (and remained out for the ensuing game in Houston). This did give JuJu a chance to follow up his brilliant performance from Wednesday's win against Atlanta. And JuJu delivered. He dropped 20 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals in 29 minutes on the court and missed only one of his shots from the field. It's actually been quite exciting watching JuJu play for the last few days. We all knew he was going to be good, but we've had to endure Byron's strange aversion to giving rookies playing time (CP3 was the only exception to this trend). Wright is extremely aggressive and handles the ball extremely well. Despite being able to penetrate the lane, he could probably use a bit more poundage on his frame. Not a lot, but enough to give him an edge against bigger forwards (especially if Byron is going to swing him over to the 4).


There's nothing like a four game trip to the East to boost your confidence. Of course, I'm sure Washington has something to say about that... but we're just going to ignore them.

Today, we are starting a rough three game stretch: Houston (on a 17 game win streak) followed by San Antonio and then the Grand-Theft Spaniards (the 1 and 2 seeds in the West). Every team in the West has a crazy schedule right now, but this stretch seems especially tough. I'm not complaining. This is exactly what the playoffs will be like (every game counts, every game is important), and it'll be good to see how we hold up under a the pressure of a few heavy matchups. However, next week the seeding in the West could go topsy-turvy and we could be heading to the lottery with 50 wins under our belts. That's actually a gross exaggeration, but I'm still terrified.


Bummer. We just lost to Houston. The Hornets kept it close, but the Rockets drained 14 treys and just plain shot the lights out in general. New Orleans didn't go quietly (CP3 dropped 37 points and 11 assists), but everyone looked a little off-kilter all night. It's a bummer of a loss since it means that the Rockets have now tied the Hornets in the standings (at 42-20) and, since they have the tie-break (2-1 against us), they now own the 3 seed in the West.

Of course, having any discussion about seeding in the West is just silly. We'll save that for April. See you Wednesday.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Highlights from the Atlanta Beatdown

For those of who were salivating over my recent post, but upset that you couldn't find a highlight real... the search is over. NBA TV's Top 10 from Wednesday featured Tyson's block at number 7 and JuJu's putback dunk at number 4. Oh, and Carl Landry's dunk on Ike Diogu is something like 8 kinds of sick. Talk about a statement. Enjoy.

Also, we have a very poor quality video of The New Orleans Globetrotters (poor is an understatement; these guys filmed their television). Turns out Jannero is pretty good at this stuff. Look for Ryan Bowen's reaction when he's invited to join the show.

Tune in this weekend for coverage of the Hornet's hosting the Nets. Power to people.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Apache, Jump on It! Jump on It!

New Orleans 116 | Atlanta 101
[league standings]

One look at the score and you can tell this match-up wasn't much of a contest. The Hawks kept it reasonably close for about 15 minutes before slowly sliding into obscurity. A few points of interest for Atlanta; Mike Bibby dropped 21 points with only 4 assists (the added "ouch" in this scenario is that the Hornets out-dimed the Hawks 35 to 18). I think he's decided that he's tired of taking flack for not living up to everyone's expectations. He's not doing too terribly (with 11.4 points and 6.5 dimes in 10 games with Atlanta), but I think might be trying to save face, since they're still losing. Last night was somewhat of a statement game for him. A sort of "Screw you guys. I will not be taking the blame for you ineptness any longer". It would've probably of been more of "statement" had he played for a relevant team.

CP3 continues to cause a great gnashing of teeth in Atlanta. He went for 23 points, 18 assists, 2 steals and only 1 turnover against the team that passed on him in the draft... which puts him at 4-0 versus said team (3 teams actually passed on him and only the Jazz came out out even). Peja showed up and dropped 29 points (7 treys) and pulled down 8 boards. Chanlder and Pargo also had great nights, but the real story was rookie Julian Wright's performance. In 22 minutes he put up 13 points and 7 rebounds (4 offensive) and dominated the highlight reel (except for Tyson's massive block on Al Horford. I will now defer to Curry:

Julian Wright also got 22 minutes of playing time and put on quite a show. He had two incredible highlight dunks (the first was a behind-the-back alley-oop from Chris Paul, and the second was an offensive rebound putback that defied the laws of nature. Seriously, his arms must be made of rubber, because there's no way any mortal man could've jumped at this angle -- away from the basket -- and still slammed the ball)

The best part of the game? No, not the highlight reel. No, not the fact that we kicked ass and took names without David West (ankle injury). No, not the fact that we started (take a breath) Ryan Bowen in his stead. Nope. The best part was the 10 minute break between the third and fourth quarters. After a Super Hugo dunk went awry and tore the net (seriously, a Harlem Globetrotter was tossing him the ball... how could that go wrong), a crew of at least 8 people emerged to tie/tape the net back together. First off, why do we need 8 people for this? Secondly, why would it take more than 2 minutes? D, why don't we have any extra nets hanging around? I could go on for hours.

As per fourth quarter usual, "Apache" blared through the sound system, prompting endless dancing (especially after the song crossed the 50 second mark for the first time). Everyone was dancing. Even Curry danced (somewhat inadvertently) with a Honeybee. But nothing topped the moment when a camera found JuJu bobbing to the beat. An roar rose from the stadium as JuJu stood up and danced like it was 1999. Amazing.

After this, Pargo, Chandler, Peja, and some lucky ten year-old with courtside tickets started passing the ball around (and half dancing). Then, unsure of their next play, the av/sound guys opted for the inexplicably ever-popular "kiss-cam". Ordinarily I would hate this. But not tonight. Since the camera guys had an eternity on their hands, the camera ended up at the scorer's table. Then this happened:

Kiss Cam, baby! (courtesy of yahoo)

The NBA: where Josh Childress still loves you even if you didn't trade for him and then added insult to injury by taking names against his own crappy team happens.

See you Friday.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Showcase and showdown

New Orleans 110 | Utah 98
[league standings]

The battle has been won. But the war... it's only beginning.

A whole nation was able to watch the Hornets on Friday. It was only their second appearance on national television this entire season. The time slot was actually slated to be a Wizards/Bulls game, but somebody at ESPN had the good sense to realize that no one wanted to watch two partially anemic franchises with little or no sense of direction battle for the chance to get knocked out of the playoffs by Detroit or Boston. And so it was. The cameras made their way to the Crescent City for what ended up being an exciting game between the two most hyped-up young points in the league.

Truthfully, I was a little concerned for the game karmically (it's a word... don't look it up) since CP3 was showcasing his new Air Jordan brand shoe. In fact, everyone on the team was sporting a new pair. It just seemed like the ego gods might not be smiling on such an event. Funny story: Paul actually slipped several time during the game prompting Al, the guy who sits next to us, to shout out things like "Nice shoes!" and "115 dollars and you can't even stand up". Classic.

The Hornets led for the entire game. There were absolutely zero lead changes. However, that lead shifted from 27 to 4 and all the way back. As a fan, this is the kind of game that is at once exhilarating and nerve-racking. Part of that emotion is owed to the Jazz who frequently looked as though they were going to overtake us. Anytime the lead dipped below 10, I panicked internally.

The Hornets jumped out to an early lead and completely dominated the first quarter. Kirilenko and Boozer got into early foul trouble, and the Hornets took full advantage of their absence, outscoring Utah 38 to 15 in the first 12 minutes. Two trends started after the first quarter: 1) The Hornets decided to stop rebounding, eventually losing that battle at 34 to 45. 2) The refs began whistling the softest fouls I've ever seen. I don't know if they felt the need to balance out the first quarter fouls on the Jazz or if they just forgot they were officiating a game, but it was starting to look like someone was getting paid off to make sure the game stayed close (most of those calls favored Mehmet Okur, a softer version of Dirk Nowitzki). I nearly had a conniption and we were up by 15. Despite the Jazz outscoring the Hornets in the second and third quarter, they were never able to close the gap from the first, and ultimately the Hornets prevailed. Done and done.

So what about the match-up? What about the reason everyone tuned into ESPN in the first place? What about CP3 versus D.Will? Let's take a look:

Chris Paul: 24 points, 16 assists, 4 rebounds, 5 steals, 1 turnover
Deron Williams: 22 points, 10 assists, 2 rebounds, 0 steals, 4 turnovers

Though Paul had the clear upper hand with his contributions, you'd be hard pressed to say that Deron played poorly. Both of those lines are quite impressive. Interestingly enough, CP3 put up most of his numbers in the first half (19 points, 9 assists), while Deron started slow (8 points, 4 assists) and heated up in the second half.

But let's get beyond the numbers... what did the match-up look like? I learned that Deron Williams is way faster than I thought he would be. And his height/size advantage on Paul allowed him to make strong moves into the paint; he frequently did this by sprinting from about half-court, using his momentum to blow right by Paul. Eventually, Byron rotated his defense so that Jannero would stay in Deron's face. He's no faster than Paul, but he has a slight height advantage and we care less if he fouls.

Here's the important thing: we match up extremely well with this team. Both teams spread the floor a lot for their shooters, they both have large jump-shooting guys from Eastern Europe (ok, Russia), they both have a big power forwards who make strong moves in the post (I drool a little every time I think of D.West matching up with Boozer in the playoffs), and they both feature young, talented, pass-first point guards. I'm so excited for the playoffs.

Actually, I've decided that if (by some insane act of Allah) we win the title, I won't feel that we've earned it unless we beat the Jazz in a series. Ok, so that isn't entirely true. Winning a title this year would require us to beat out the Grand-Theft-Spaniards, the Defending Champs, and whoever reigns supreme in the Detroit/Boston/Cleveland match-up. Did I mention I was excited for the playoffs? Because I'm terrified, too.


Great article about CP3 ran in ESPN the magazine. Curry and I are trying to get on his guest list, but C.J. won't take our calls. Rude.