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FEELS LIKE HOME


FEELS LIKE HOME
OKLAHOMA CITY -- It was a simple request, but one that, through the first 10 games of the regular season, had fallen on a dozen pair of deaf ears.

"Energy and intensity," Hornets Coach Byron Scott said he hoped to get that from his struggling team as it returned Friday night to the Ford Center, where about half of them had played two years exiled from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

That the opponent was the young and visibly hapless Thunder, recently transplanted here after spending the first 40 years of their existence as the Seattle SuperSonics, certainly helped.

The Hornets capitalized on Oklahoma City's haphazard play, snapping a two-game losing streak in winning 105-80 before a crowd of 19,136 that, at times, cheered for the visitors in the Creole Blue uniforms as much as for their team.

The two teams meet again tonight in the New Orleans Arena.

An ESPN national television audience watched as the Hornets, preseason picks by many to be a Western Conference finalist, finally played up to their expectations.

The game was so out of hand, Bowen Time -- that's reserve forward Ryan Bowen -- came at 8:11 of the fourth quarter with the Hornets up 91-64 as he checked in for the first time.

"I just want to see us play hard for 48 minutes," Scott said, "and not in spurts. I would like to see us play, especially tonight, with a fear of losing. I don't think we've had that fear all season. So when we lose a game, maybe after the Sacramento game, when we lost that one, it looked like guys were more upset than they had been.

"That's probably a good thing. But I want to see us go out there and play with a fear of losing instead of just playing like we're world-beaters. Like I told them, 'You guys don't scare anybody. You ain't won nothing. You can't walk on the court and think Sacramento and the Thunder and teams like that are going to be scared of you. You guys ain't done you-know-what.' Hopefully, they got the message. Hopefully, they understand."

They did Friday.

"We played pretty well on both ends of the floor," said Scott, whose team created 26 turnovers, converting them into 32 points. "The sense of urgency seemed to be there. We played with a lot more determination tonight and a lot more energy than the last four games. Hopefully, we can continue to play that way the rest of the season.

"We did a good job on the defensive end of being active with our hands and causing turnovers. We shot the ball pretty well (49 percent) and did a lot of things well, so that's something to build on."

On Thursday, the Hornets had to sit through the game tape of Wednesday night's stunning loss to the Kings, a short-handed team that spanked New Orleans 105-96.

There was the possibility the Hornets might take the Thunder, now 1-12 and losers of 10 in a row, for granted.

But there seemed to be that sense of urgency, that fear of potentially losing to a team that appears headed for the NBA lottery, that ran through each Hornets possession.

Thursday's video session at the Alario Center, which took up most of the Hornets' practice, provided a sobering message.

"They were quiet," Scott said. "They were real quiet. You saw guys just kind of shaking their head. But tape doesn't lie. It tells you, point blank, live and in living color, whether you're playing hard or not. And it was obvious that Sacramento was playing harder."

The Hornets distanced themselves from the Thunder with a 20-2 run midway through the second quarter that advanced their lead to 24 points.

New Orleans was getting a huge boost from its bench, really the first time this season that the reserves had distinguished themselves in such a manner.

The decisive second-quarter run was fashioned primarily by the second unit. At the halftime break, at which the Hornets enjoyed a 60-39 lead, the bench had contributed 24 points.

By game's end, the bench contributed 48 points, led by Devin Brown's 16 and a solid 13 by Hilton Armstrong, who shot 6-of-7, much of the damage on slam dunks inside.

"The bench did a lot tonight, and I think that was the key to our win," said Armstrong, who played just over 19 minutes. "Everybody was just real focused, not just the starters and not just the bench, but everybody as a whole.

"We played hard the whole game, and it really paid off, especially defensively. We came back in transition and tried to make that the focus today. We've got to get back on track and get a good little streak going now."

It was a thorough effort with one exception: rebounding.

Oklahoma City's front line, led by Nick Collison, who finished with 13 boards, dominated the glass, outrebounding New Orleans 48-35.

"They play hard," Scott said. "That worried me because we haven't done that on a consistent basis. In Collison, (Chris) Wilcox and (Robert) Swift (who sat out the game with a sore back), especially their front-line guys, they play hard. They go after every rebound. They crash the glass on the offensive and defensive end.

"And that scared the heck out of me, because our guys, our front line, has not been rebounding worth a damn this season. We're damn near last in rebounding this year when we were in the top 10 last year. That's a big problem spot for us. They have athletic bigs that attack the glass."

. . . . . . .

Jimmy Smith can be reached at jsmith@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3814.


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 22, 2008

 

 
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