What a game.
The Hornets were once again missing Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic, and James Posey was also missing after getting suspeneded for his silly ball-throwing incident against New York. The Spurs were in town with their big three of Duncan, Ginobli and Parker intact. It was, on paper, a game that the Spurs should have won. Luckily for Hornets fans, the Spurs did not win.
After a season full of mounting injuries and unfulfilled expectations, the Hornets pulled the rabbit out of the hat. A damn vicious rabbit with the word "DEFENSE" tattooed on its face. This game was all about effort. The Hornets played solid and aggressive team defense, rotating well on the perimeter and playing physical inside without getting into too much foul trouble. San Antonio did get some open looks from beyond the arc, but for the most part New Orleans did a fairly solid job of closing out and was able to prevent San Antonio from getting into any kind of rhythm from deep. Instead, the opposite happened. San Antonio kept chucking them up and they continued to miss, finishing a miserable 7-29 from deep. Mistakes were made, mistakes always are, but the effort was there for 48 minutes. The team played hard, and playing hard is atleast 50% of good defense. Thankfully, solid rebounding made the defensive effort pay off. West battled big and finished with 16 boards, Armstrong pulled down 6, Marks grabbed 5, and the little magician aka the merchant of grief aka the anti-Nate Robinson had 7.
On the offensive end, the team didn't shoot much better than the Spurs did. In fact, they shot worse from the field overall (37.5% to the Spurs 40.3%), but they had a slighty better showing from three-point range (30.8% on 13 attempts to the Spurs 24.1% on 29 attempts) and they lived at the free throw line, where they shot an impressive 32-33. The Hornets were just as aggressive offensively as they were defensively, which is why they were rewarded with so many free throw attempts. The Hornets pushed the break, and they pushed it hard. Chris Paul in particular ran coast to coast like a madman after what seemed like every long rebound or steal.
Energy, aggressiveness, effort, drive... its been missing, but it was there last night. Let's hope that what we saw last night was not an isolated case, but a turning point. Win or lose, I want to see the Hornets play like this from here on out.
Props to: Hilton Armstrong and Sean Marks. Hilton had a workman-like statline of 7 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, a steal and an assist in 29 minutes. He had only 1 turnover and just 3 fouls, and he made Tim Duncan work for his 19 points. Among the bright spots the past few weeks is Hilton's consistently solid play.
Meanwhile, Marks showed some white boy hustle at its very best. Swatting shots, grabbing boards, cutting to the rim, setting screens... as strange as it sounds Sean Marks was a force to be reckoned with in his 16 minutes on the floor. When Hubie Brown says you "are playing great basketball," well... that's quite a compliment.