Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jason Smith and defying conventional wisdom

Posted By on Tue, Feb 1, 2011 at 9:53 PM

With our photographer out of town, this was the best Jason Smith picture we could find.

After the Hornets last game, I wrote that an injury to Chris Paul, David West, Trevor Ariza or Emeka Okafor could easily derail the season. Consider this an apology on two fronts. The first for jinxing Okafor right before he strained his oblique muscle (he could be out for up to three weeks) and the second for assuming the Hornets consisted of just their four best players.

Jason Smith (JASON SMITH!) put on an absolute show tonight, posting a career-high 20 points in the Hornets 97-89 win over the Washington Wizards. Smith started by hitting his first nine shots (including two monster dunks to start the game and get the crowd behind him) and finished with a rousing ovation when he was named "MVBEE" of the game.

Really, I should also apologize to Smith. His presence has been consistently positive for the Hornets all season and yet you can hardly find him mentioned in this space. If ever had mentioned him, maybe we'd have a better stock photo than the one above (hey, at least he's defending Kevin Durant well).

Much of the same can be said about the Hornets bench. Sure, this was just one game against the Wizards (who have lost all 25 of their road games this season), but as the season progresses it's becoming more apparent that this team's bench is not nearly the liability we once thought it was. Tonight, Marcus Thornton and Willie Green posted 11 and 10 points, respectively and, out of all the starters, only Ariza played 40 minutes.

The Hornets bench is by no means spectacular, but that's not this team's style of play. The Hornets win games by overworking their opponents and clamping down on defense. After all, this is a team that ranks first in the West in team defense but in the bottom third of the league in scoring.

You could point to the Hornets loss to Phoenix on Sunday as a sign that, against a quality team, there's no way you can expect Smith to go for 20 points in a night. But the Hornets didn't lose that game because they lacked scoring, they lost because they gave up 100 points or more for just the 15th time all season (the Hornets are 4-11 in those games).

The Hornets don't need players like Smith to explode for 20 points in just their fifth career start, but obviously that doesn't hurt. But rather than expect Smith to start posting career numbers down the stretch, expect him —and the rest of the team— to continue to focus on keeping the other team from scoring.

After all, what's the point of scoring 100 points if you let your opponent score 101?

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