by Clay A. Smith
-The underachieving Chicago Bulls gored the lethargic New Orleans Hornets in a demoralizing 77-97 loss. Once playing inspired ball in the wake the rescinded Tyson Chandler trade the mercurial Hornets have reverted back to form.
-Before getting drilled by the Bulls in the final leg of their' four game Eastern Conference road trip the Hornets' seven game winning streak was broken in Atlanta. Led by the unflappable Chris Paul New Orleans would then go on to beat the Washington Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks. Paul had a triple-double in Washington and 30 points and 9 assists in Milwaukee.
-Paul has continued his feverish assault on the race for MVP by leading his team in points and assists for the past six contests. Simply put, when Paul has the ball the Hornets score. It was no different in Chicago. Paul scored 29 points-all while holding rookie phenom Derrick Rose to just four points on 2-9 shooting.But the league's leader in assists could only manage six as his supporting cast phoned in a fifty point effort-committing twice as many turnovers as a Bulls team that averages almost fifteen a game.
-To make matters worse, the Hornets allowed Ben Gordon and John Salmons to combine for 51 points- outscoring everyone not named Chris Paul in a New Orleans Jersey. The Hornets' bench, which has struggled to get anything remotely resembling productivity this entire season, was outscored 19-28 and David West, who for the better part of the season was the Robin to Paul's Batman with 20 points a game, was no where to be found.
-Hornets' Coach Byron Scott wasn't shocked but rather disappointed with the loss to the Bulls."We've seen this picture a few times this season where we just don't come out ready to play," said Scott. "We had an opportunity to kind of help ourselves, so it's just disappointing.''New Orleans is fighting to keep up in NBA's Western Conference. At 41-24 the Hornets are in fifth place in the gridlocked west.With the Conference playoff race tightening, every remaining game is crucial. With just seventeen games remaining in the regular season it would go a long way in improving New Orleans' seeding if they could beat the three seed Houston Rockets tonight. The Rockets are only a half a game ahead of the Hornets but if the "Bees" turn in a performance similar to the one they delivered in Chicago that margin could widen astronomically.