Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hornets fight off the Spurs

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2008 at 6:51 AM

click to enlarge D-West intensity


Photo by Jonathan Bachman




That's the word that kept coming up in post-game interviews after the Hornets' 90–83 victory tonight over the San Antonio Spurs. To wit:


  • Byron Scott: "We kept fighting. Kept our focus. We didn't get discouraged, we knew we had to get some shots and we had to get some stops and we were ready to do both."
  • Chris Paul: "I think this team showed a lot of fight without Peja [Stojakovic] and Mo Pete. This was a huge win for us."
  • James Posey: "We just wanted to be aggressive, you know what I'm saying? Just go out there, play them hard and ... [shoot] that's really it."


OK, so not everyone, was using the word "fight". But anyone who saw the game knows that Hornets showed the fight and a desire we all got so accustomed to last season. From David West willing those two three-pointers in down the stretch to a 6-foot-tall Chris Paul out-reaching a 6-foot, 6-inch Manu Ginobli for that jump ball with less than a minute remaining to the crowd not sitting down from five minutes left to go and on, this was a statement win at its finest.


"It's a great win, but we need to make sure we keep going," Scott said. "It's just a regular season game."


With all due respect to coach Scott, it wasn't just a regular season game. It was the Hornets' first meeting against the Spurs since that epic seven-game series in the playoffs. It was a game where the Spurs led by nine in the fourth quarter and kept the Hornets frustrated almost throughout. It was a game where Chris Paul set the NBA consecutive game steals record at 106, Tim Duncan grabbed his 10,000th rebound and Michael Finley played in his 1,000th game.


Most importantly for the Hornets, though, it was a statement win. New Orleans shot just 43.2% from the floor and had 15 turnovers yet outscored the Spurs 32–20 in the paint and doubled the Spurs in second-chance points (14–7). The Hornets were far from perfect and made mistakes, but in the end, the Spurs oppressive defense didn't do enough to break the Hornets' will.


"Frustrated? I don't think we were frustrated," Posey said. "We just demand so much from ourselves. We want to play a perfect game, we want to do everything right, when you mess up you get on yourself a little bit but with that you gotta keep playing."


Despite times where the offense became stagnant, the Hornets were able to will their way to the basket for points or at least a foul. On the defensive end, the Hornets were able to keep the Spurs from scoring for large stretches of time, epitomized by the Hornets 20–5 run in the fourth quarter that sealed the game in their favor.


"We had to stay scrappy, just continue to play hard," Rasual Butler said. "You just got to bring it, keep the intensity up, know that they're going to make some runs and make the offense a bit stagnant for us."


As much as the Spurs tried to make smother the Hornets and force them into mistakes, New Orleans kept fighting back. Then, with less than five minutes left in the game, the David West hit a three-pointer that brought the 16,593 fans in the building to their feet. Forty-three seconds later in regulation, David West attempted nearly the exact same shot and made his second three-pointer of the game and third of the season. Then it became the loudest the Hive has been all year.


"The crowd definitely gave us some energy," Butler said. "They're the best sixth man in the league and we were able to come up big down the stretch."


No, the Hornets didn't win the NBA Championship with tonight's win. But for the first time all season, they honestly looked like they could.

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