Looking at it one way, the Hornets' 10197 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves was well-deserved: they overcame the loss of David West in the second quarter after he completed a flagrant-two, Sean Marks came off the bench and scored a career-high 18 points and Rasual Butler led the way with 23 points on 9-of-15 shooting.
Looking at it another way, and the Hornets had absolutely no business winning tonight. The Hornets were out-rebounded 4633, shot just 20% (3-of-15) from three-point range yet benefited from two incredibly lucky bounces in the final 10 seconds of the game. But as the saying goes, a win is a win.
But as great as the response from the Hornets players to West's ejection was, this game could have had a much different outcome had the ball Devin Brown lost while driving the lane not landed in Sean Marks' hands or if Minnesota's Sebastian Telfair not completely missed a wide-open Mike Miller moments later.
"I wish I could tell you that was the play," Marks said of the ball that ended up in his hands and which he dunked to put the Hornets ahead for good. "It was just a case of luck of the bounce, I guess."
Coach Byron Scott said that he had drawn up a high pick-and-roll play between Marks and Brown because he knew that if one of his players could get to the basket, it would "create a situation where we can get a foul or we're going to make a bucket or get an offensive rebound." Of course, none of those situations played out as Brown got tangled up with Telfair in the lane and lost the ball. Coach Scott said his team got "a little bit of luck" on the play. Brown, for his part, said he was just trying to get the ball up as high as possible and create an offensive rebound situation.
"It was one of those things where you were falling down and just see the ball going in the air," he said. "It was just a heads-up play by Sean. He really bailed me out."
Brown wasn't the only player that was bailed out by his teammates tonight. After scoring nine points in the first quarter and a half, David West was just one point away from extending his streak of scoring double-figures in 109 straight games (including the playoffs). Instead, West committed a flagrant foul on Miller with a tomahawk-chop from behind that hit the Minnesota player in the head as he was going up for a lay-up. After West was ejected, the Hornets found themselves without 3/5 of their regular starting lineup (both Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler missed the game with injuries) and it seemed like they were losing their grasp on the game.
In a weird way, though, the Hornets had experience with one of their star players leaving a game unexpectedly. It was just six days ago that Chris Paul injured his groin against the Portland Trailblazers and left the game in the third quarter. Ryan Bowen, making his second strait start, said Paul's injury after which New Orleans blew a 17-point lead to Portland affected how the Hornets reacted to West's ejection.
"When Chris went out we just kind of folded there," Bowen said. "When David went out it gave us a boost. We were like, hey, you know, we're not going to let that happen to us again."
Indeed, New Orleans was trailing by six points when West was ejected and Miller made one of his two free throw attempts. Instead of folding like they did against Portland, the Hornets responded by playing with even more energy and were able to grind out a win.
So no, it wasn't the prettiest win the Hornets have had and it may have been one of their luckiest, but it was made possible by the type of effort that this team needs to put forth if they want to be taken as a serious title contender.