Thursday, April 8, 2010

In a one-point loss, the Hornets find a sense of pride

Posted By on Thu, Apr 8, 2010 at 3:30 AM

Photograph by Jonathan Bachman

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click to enlarge Bower getting ejected

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The knock on the New Orleans Hornets for much of the season has been their uncanny ability to just give up for entire quarters of games, if not more. It's a trait that carried over from the Byron Scott days, when this team was busy losing games in the most horribly historic ways possible. Trailing by 22 points at the half Wednesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, and with coach Jeff Bower already having been ejected in the first quarter, it seemed that another lackluster loss was in the books.

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And then something surprising happened. The Hornets, inexplicably and without the aid of Chris Paul or Peja Stojakovic, began to play inspired basketball. They scored 40 points in the third quarter (two more than they scored en the entire first half. The second half was one of the most exciting stretches of basketball this team has played in nearly two years and, despite losing 103-104 in the end, gave fans some sort of hope for the future after a hapless, throwaway season.

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The Hornets, by any measure, had no business even being competitive in this game. The Hornets shot 32.5 percent in the first half, including just 2-of-7 from three-point range. Moreover, the Bobcats were playing in dominant fasion. Stephen Jackson racked up 18 points on 5-of-10 shooting and former Tyson Chandler (whom the Hornets traded away for Emeka Okafor) had 10 points and five empathic blocked shots.

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That first half made me wonder if the Hornets had any life in them left at all and had to leave many a fan wondering what was really in store for their franchise in the future. With George Shinn reportedly looking to sell his majority share in the team and Avery Johnson a seemingly sure-fire shot to replace Jeff Bower (not to mention some speculation as to how safe Bower's GM job is) all the news seemed to be about next season. It seemed that, with nothing to play for other than a paycheck, the Hornets were ready to just lay down and die.

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Marcus Thorton and Darren Collison, though, had other plans. The rookie duo combined for a total of 60 points on the game, including a 12-point third quarter by Collison that ignited the Hornets comeback attempt. The rookies picked up their team and led them within a point from victory in spite of lackluster performances from the big-name free agents that were supposed to bring this team over the top. James Posey made just one basket and had five points in 24 minutes, while Okafor struggled all night against Chandler and finished with seven points and nine rebounds. Darius Songaila went three-for-four, which is not bad, except that he played nearly twenty minutes and had nearly as many fouls (four) as he had points (six).

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The Hornets have a lot of questions coming into the post-season. But they can be at least sure of one thing: it's no long just the Paul and West show in the Big Easy, Collison and Thornton have shown they can put on a display as well.

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