Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hornets prepare for arrival (hopefully some time in June)

Posted By on Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 4:33 AM

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click to enlarge Armstrong Domination

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Photo by Jonathan Bachman

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With their pretty decisive 104–91 win tonight against the Shaq- and Nash-less Phoenix Suns, the New Orleans Hornets have won five of their last six games, including a four-game win streak last week. Four of those five wins have been by double-digits while only the Denver Nuggets managed to break the 100-point barrier.

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Quite a turnaround from that sluggish start to the season that had fans a bit nervous. But, as Byron Scott noted, the season is still long and there is still much to play for.

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"As long as they don't feel that we've arrived, then we're going to be OK," he said. "When they get to the point where we've arrived, then we're in trouble."

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For the Hornet this season, complacency has been the mother of disappointment. Even with the late news that the Suns would be without Shaquille O'Neil and Steve Nash, the Hornets came out hot, dominating the first quarter with a confident and fluid offense. But despite building multiple double-digit leads, there were moments where the Bleu and Gold stumbled and showed us that they're not yet hitting on all cylinders – none more glaring than their 16-point third quarter. But unlike the beginning of the season, the Hornets bounced back convincingly.

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"If we get a lead, we just have to keep it," Tyson Chandler said. "They're wounded, but if you show them some light, it can come back to bite you in the long run."

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At least for tonight, that wasn't the case. Three Hornets (David West, Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic) finished with at least 23 points and Chandler contributed with 14. The Hornets dominated the boards, 46–30, and had more than twice as many second-chance points (28–13). In many ways, this team has turned a corner. The question is, can they maintain that momentum through the mid-way point of the season?

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"We know what the ultimate goal is and we're not even close to it," Chandler said. "As long as we keep playing like this and attacking, not playing with our heals back, we'll be better that way."

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Likely the biggest test in the early goings of this season might be the Hornets next stretch of games: New Orleans plays just four games in twelve days, the first two aganst lowly Memphis and Charlotte. The ability to keep up good energy and not showing the signs of flatness and complacency that haunted this team during the beginning of the season will say a lot about how far they've come and where they're going.

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"It's a very important stretch for us," Paul said. "Each night we've got ot make sure that we come out with a lot of energy."

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Sometimes something as simple as early-season energy can be the difference between coming up short to your goals and arriving victorious at the end of the season.

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