Hornets Cast Spell On Magic
Orlando rode into New Orleans on an NBA best 9 game winning streak. The Hornets snapped it Wednesday night at the Hive, defeating the Magic in overtime 92-89. Marco Belinelli left with a sprained ankle 67 seconds into the game. Without their starting two guard, the Hornets got Marcus Thornton’s best game of the season, as he scored 22 points, with 7 of those coming in overtime.
There were several great performances for the hometeam. Chris Paul and David West were up to the usual, each finishing with a double-double. Emeka Okafor finished with a double-double as well, scoring 18 points while pulling down 14 boards. Even more impressive is that Okafor’s numbers came on a night when his main assignment was guarding the best center in the league, Dwight Howard. Trevor Ariza scored 16 points and led the Hornets swarming defense from buzzer to buzzer. Okafor and Ariza both played a Hornet game high 46 minutes. Of all the Hornet performances, Thornton’s probably stood out the most. Here is more from the AP and espn.com.
Marcus Thornton’s shooting touch returned at the right time for the New Orleans Hornets.Thornton had a season-high 22 points and nine rebounds, complementing Emeka Okafor’s 18-point, 14-rebound performance, and New Orleans outlasted Orlando 92-89 in overtime on Wednesday night, snapping the Magic’s nine-game winning streak.
Hornets coach Monty Williams said he wasn’t planning to use Thornton, a former LSU star who was 6-of-33 shooting in his previous seven games. Then starting shooting guard Marco Belinelli sprained his right ankle in the first quarter and plans changed.
“Marcus came in and did phenomenal,” Okafor said. “[He] came in off the bench and did what he does best, which is score.”
Thornton has been known to score in bunches but his shooting slump was costing him playing time lately. When Belinelli went out, he said his goal was “just to step up and try to fill the void.”
He did, particularly in overtime, when he hit a 3 early in the period, then nailed a jumper from the top of the key with 37 seconds left to put the Hornets up 90-89.
Dwight Howard, whose 29 points and 20 rebounds kept the Magic in the game, missed a pair of free throws that could have given Orlando a one-point lead with 11 seconds to go. Then Thornton made two more free throws for the final margin.
“You can’t just look at it as the [missed] free throws lost the game,” Howard said. “There were a lot of plays down the stretch that we didn’t make. We didn’t play as hard as we’re supposed to play and they got easy buckets. … There was a lot of mistakes that we made to put us in that position.”
Chris Paul had 12 points and 13 assists, David West had 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza had 16 points as New Orleans used a slow pace and typically strong defense to pull out the victory.
“I guess we play slow,” Paul said. “But it’s a combo of that and our defense. We got stops. They really like to push the tempo and shoot 3s in transition, but we tried to be up and be aggressive and make them take tough shots.”
Chris Paul’s postgame quote is 100% accurate. Orlando is at their best in an up tempo game, with plenty of 3 point baskets in transition. While Dwight Howard is their best player, he can still get his points and rebounds when the Magic push the pace. Whether it be on putbacks, or when Orlando occasionally slows it down, Howard is just as good in a fast paced game. The rest of the Magic however, are not. One glance at the box score and one will notice great numbers from Howard, and terrible offensive numbers from the rest of his teammates (with the exception of Jason Richardson). Monty Williams had the perfect defensive strategy for his opponent, and the Hornets used it to cast a spell on Orlando’s offense, ending their 9 game win streak.