The New Orleans Hornets have one of the league's best defenses, thanks largely to strong center Emeka Okafor, agile wing Trevor Ariza and pickpocket extraordinaire Chris Paul. There are rarely concerns that the Hornets' defense will be the downfall of the team.
But New Orleans' offense, despite the presence of CP3, is another story. Often, to win a game, the Hornets must squeeze just enough offense out of the ancillary players outside of Paul and power forward David West. They did just that in Sunday's 93-86 win over a very good Atlanta Hawks team.
The Hornets trailed by nine at halftime in Atlanta. With the margin the same two minutes into the second half, New Orleans went on a four-minute, 16-3 run to grab a lead. The offensive outburst included seven made baskets. CP3 was involved on six of them, hitting four baskets and assisting on two more. (He also had a free throw in there.) The only bucket not involving CP3 during the stretch was a West assist to Okafor in the lane. (In its 28-point third quarter, New Orleans had just two buckets that didn't involve CP3 or West as the shooter or assist-maker.)
If there's a Hornet who can help generate a bit of offense in key moments, recent addition Jarrett Jack may be that guy. The Hawks took the lead back at 81-80 on a Mike Bibby three-pointer with seven minutes left in the game. The Hornets responded with a 9-0 run over six minutes to essentially ice the game. With the run definitely had some Paul-West action, Jack scored four points in the stretch on a jumper and two free throws.
When New Orleans was challenging the Western Conference's best, CP3 didn't have a reliable creator behind him on the bench. That was part of what made Darren Collison such a revelation last season: no longer was almost every possession up to Paul. While injuries and an unsettled coaching situation ruined that partnership, the addition of Jack has been a nice consolation prize. Eventually, the Hornets will need even more out of Ariza, Okafor and Marco Belinelli on offense. In the meantime, Jack can help bridge the gap off the bench.
- At The Hive likes that Chris Paul was aggressive in the second half, and writes that the team owes its success to that. Peachtree Hoops blames bad habits, like Joe Johnson isolation plays and poor decision-making, for the Hawks' collapse.
The Clippers are hot! L.A. The Lesser has won four of five to climb four wins ahead of its Pacific Division rival Sacramento Kings for last place in the West. (The Timberwolves are between them.) It needs not be said that Blake Griffin loomed largely in the Clips' win over the Phoenix Suns. Griffin had his 24th double-double of the season; he's currently second (behind Kevin Love) in that category in the entire league right now. Even more impressive is that it was Griffin's 18th straight (!) double-double.
That's the longest such streak of this season, and the longest since Dwight Howard's 20-game double-double streak late last season. The longest run in the last five years was a 37-game string by Kevin Garnett that connected the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons when The Ticket was still in Minnesota.
Griffin has been just that solid. For all the emphasis and glorification of his easy-to-glorify-and-emphasize dunks, he has been a remarkably solid and consistent weapon for the Clippers. He's volatile when he attacks the rim. But his production certainly hasn't been. Drafting Griffin was almost a two-for-one deal: the explosive athlete and the dependable workhorse. What a treat.
The dunks are pretty sweet, though.
Oh, about the game: the Clippers ran up a big first-half lead, Phoenix staged one of its famous furious comebacks (aided greatly by some smooth jumpers by new addition Mickael Pietrus) but ran out of steam. The Suns fell to 13-15. After 28 games last season, Phoenix was 18-10.
- Despite some rough edges, Clips Nation has no problem focusing on the positives. Bright Side Of The Suns looks at it slightly differently: "Losing to the Clippers is like losing a game of HORSE to your little sister."
In other action ...
Spurs 94, Wizards 80: San Antonio got back on the winning trail by thwarting an undermanned Wizards squad that had both starting big men -- JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche -- suspended by the team due to a Friday night altercation at a D.C. nightclub. The two allegedly threw punches at each other. The Wizards just threw a bunch of bricks Sunday night. (Hey-o!) John Wall did return, however, playing 19 minutes off the bench. He had four points, four assists and four turnovers in his first action since Dec. 10.
Timberwolves 98, Cavaliers 97: Michael Beasley, you are the winner! Beasley hit a rather uncontested righty lay-up I'd show you if ESPN would allow their clips to be embedded. Instead, you'll have to go sit through a Luke Ridnour 25-footer and whatnot. Kevin Love is now at 17 straight double-doubles, one behind Griffin. Dueling double-double streaks!
Bulls 95, Pistons 92: Chicago returned to the living world, just barely. The tight win over Detroit came a day after the Bulls fell at Madison Square Garden. Chicago needed overtime, as the Pistons went on a 7-0 run to end regulation, punctuated by Charlie Villanueva's tip-in with 0.6 seconds left. That tip-in was made possible by some frantic and bad defensive rebounding attempts by the Bulls.
Three misses by the Pistons and zero box-outs by the Bulls. Nonetheless, Chicago pulled through.
Grizzlies 104, Pacers 90: O.J. Mayo has thrived off the bench lately. In this one, he scored 17 to help Memphis nurse a big lead the entire game. The rest of the Grizzlies' bench is still a problem -- if Hasheem Thabeet comes around, things could improve, but Hasheem Thabeet looks no closer to coming around than he did last year.
76ers 95, Nuggets 89: Speaking of bench play, the Sixers got 20 from Thaddeus Young off the pine as Philadelphia knocked off the still 'Melo-less Nuggets. Elton Brand had 16 points and 17 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday scored 22. And when you have a defense as tough as Philly's against an opponent missing its offensive Alpha and Omega, that's enough.