It’s nice to win an easy one every once and a while! The Hornets controlled the pace and the scoreboard right from the start, dominating the Pacers on both sides of the court. The toughest part of this game was watching CP3 limp off the court in the 2nd quarter after banging knees with Pacers big man Jeff Foster; however, Paul returned a few minutes later with the knee wrapped and continued his magnificent play. Thanks mainly to Emeka Okafor’s season high 17 rebounds, the Hornets controlled the paint, winning the rebound battle (48-33) as well as points in the paint (48-34). Though the final margin of victory was only a dozen points, the game was never really that close. The Hornets took their foot off the gas a little too soon and teetered on the brink of making this one interesting with about 3 minutes to go, but kept the Pacers from cutting the lead to single digits. With the win, New Orleans lowers its magic number to just two over Houston, and can clinch a playoff spot with a win over those Rockets Wednesday night in the New Orleans Arena. My thoughts on the game after the jump.
- Fantastic game from CP3 tonight; he must have been rejuvenated from reading my At The Hive article from Wednesday night, no other way to describe it. Paul made 8 of his 13 shots for 18 points and dished out 8 assists, and notched the 1,000th steal of his NBA career in the 3rd quarter; he reached that total in just 420 games, the 4th fastest total in league history. Nothing negative to be said about Paul’s game tonight.
- Despite attempting his usual quota of 3 or 4 ill-advised jumpshots, Ariza had one of his best games of the season. Like Paul, he made 8 of 13 shots and led all scorers with 19 points, and was also able to add 9 rebounds and 3 assists. He also did a magnificent job on Pacers’ leading scorer Danny Granger, who finished with just 15 points on 5-11 shooting, well below his 20.5 ppg average. Great work from Ariza (even though it may encourage him to take more bad shots in the future).
- Despite Ariza and CP3′s great games, MVP honors go to Emeka Okafor. Oak made 6 of his 11 attempts, totaling 14 points in addition to his season high 17 rebounds, 7 of them on the offensive end. He single-handedly controlled the paint on both offense and defense, abusing Roy Hibbert as well as whoever else the Pacers put down there. Okafor’s presence inside was the main reason this game was so lopsided, and with Landry’s rebounding struggles, he’ll have to keep up that strong work.
- Speaking of Landry, a solid game from him as well. Landry finished with a very impressive 2 points per shot attempt, making 6 of 9 and adding 6 of 7 at the free throw line. Carl gave me hope for his rebounding abilities as well, collecting 8 in his 31 minutes of action.
- Average games for Belinelli and most of the Hornets bench. Beli and Green each scored 9 points on 9 shots and Jack went 2 of 6 but finished with 11 thanks to making all seven of his free throw attempts. Gray made 4 of 5 shots for 8 points and added 3 rebounds in 14 minutes, but picked up 5 fouls in the process. Pondexter made just one of six shots in a pretty disappointing overall night, though he did manage to tally 4 rebounds and 2 assists. The bench came dangerously close to letting things get a little too interesting late in the 4th, forcing Monty to bring his starters back in up by 11 with 3:08 to play. We already knew that the Hornets bench is well below average on offense now that Landry is in the starting lineup, but they’re going to need to step it up a notch on defense as well come playoff time.
NEXT GAME: Another very important game on Wednesday night as the Hornets take on the Rockets at home in the Hive. With a win, the Hornets lock up a playoff spot, so it would be very nice to get over that hump in front of the home crowd. Unfortunately, Portland beat Dallas tonight, allowing them to retain their one game lead on the Hornets for the 6th seed in the West. The Hornets need this one on Wednesday night, and need a big and amped up crowd to see them do it! See y’all in the Hive, geaux Hornets!