For two and a half quarters tonight, it seemed as if the New Orleans Hornets were resigned to their fate as a woe-be-gone franchise with no home or immediate future. They were down 23 points to the bottom-feeding Sacramento Kings with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter. The crowd was dead, the players had no energy and all seemed lost.
Then Monty Williams put in Marcus Thornton and everything changed. Thornton was a spark plug the Hornets desperately needed and he went on to score 15 points and notch a steal on the way to help bringing New Orleans within eight at the end of the quarter.
Thornton certainly didn't do it alone, but without him, Chris Paul's 22 points and 11 assists might have been in a losing effort. Instead, Thornton's 19 points helped the Hornets overcome their largest deficit in franchise history and beat the Kings 94-91.
This game, one way or another, may prove as a signature moment. In many ways, the Hornets are at their lowest level as a franchise. Owned by the NBA with an uncertain future and in the middle of a brutal stretch where they've lost 9-of-12, this team could have folded. They didn't and there's a lot to be said about that.
Mostly, it says that this team at least has the capability to show grit, heart and the ability to come back from a mediocre performance against a mediocre team. It should be noted that the Hornets shot only 43.6%, including an abysmal 5-of-21 in the second quarter. Also, Trevor Ariza was so bad that the Hornets played a three-guard lineup for most of the night.
But unlike a few days ago at Philadelphia, when New Orleans finished with close to 30% shooting, the Hornets were able to clamp down on defense, cause turnovers and turn them into points. The Hornets, it seems, have found some serious resolve.
The reality of the situation, though, is that the Hornets need to play a lot better than they have been if they want to continue their winning ways. As of now, the Hornets' last winning streak ended November 19. With the Utah Jazz coming into town on Friday, they have to hope the momentum from their historic comeback will carry over.