Thursday, February 11, 2010

Remember these guys? They're not doing so bad.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 11, 2010 at 4:28 AM

click to enlarge Collison going high

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Photograph by Jonathan Bachman

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Saints mania may have taken over this city but across the street from the Super Dome, the New Orleans Hornets are still hard on the grind, fighting for quality wins and to keep themselves in contention for a playoff spot. Tonight, they came up big with a 93-85 win against a Celtics teams playing suddenly without their usual championship swagger. More importantly, Darren Collison continues to shine in place of Chris Paul, putting up 25 points and nine assists (though he did commit 10 turnovers).

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"[Chris Paul] yelled at me even after a win, but it just shows how much he cares," Collison said. "I was trying to be comfortable and manage the game like he does."

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The Hornets continue to peak, dip and valley. After going 12-5 in the month of January, the Hornets opened February losing four of their first five games. After a 123-117 loss to the Orlando Magic on Monday, it seemed as if this team was about to fall apart with the Celtics coming into town. Instead, the Hornets responded by coming back from a 12-point deficit and limiting Boston to just 30 second-half points (including a paltry 12 in the third quarter).

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"The defense in the third and fourth quarter put us in the position for us to win," head coach Jeff Bower said. "We did open up the floor with some transition opportunities and a lot of stops and steals which helped us a bunch."

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The Hornets, though, still have much to accomplish. With the All-Star break coming up, this is a team looking at at the final stretch of the season a game and a half out of the playoffs. But with six teams at the bottom of the Western Conference standings separated by less than four games, nothing is certain. What the Hornets need is for Collison to continue to put up consistently good numbers, David West (who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds) to continue as a steadying force for the offense and, lest we forget, Chris Paul to recover 100% from his knee injury.

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But as good as tonight's win was for a team struggling to maintain consistent results, it was pretty ugly at times. Both teams combined for 47 turnovers and New Orleans shot a horrendous 27.8% in the second quarter. The Hornets, though, are far from a perfect team. But their focus is to win games by any means necessary and they were able to do that tonight.

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"We hustled and got a lot of loose balls," forward Darius Songalia said. "I'm sure it wasn't pretty but we grinding it out and did what we had to do."

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