Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hornets Take Season Opener Against Golden State

After a 2007-08 season highlighted by numerous buzzer-beaters and dramatic late-game heroics, the Hornets picked up right where they left off in Game 1 at Golden State. Trailing by a point, Chris Paul dribbled past the Warriors' defense for a driving layup that gave New Orleans a 104-103 lead with 19 seconds left. Peja Stojakovic and Rasual Butler tacked on a pair of free throws apiece to account for the final five-point margin.
Paul had misfired on a pair of wide-open, mid-range jumpers earlier in the fourth quarter, so the 6-foot point guard decided to try to get closer to the rim on the go-ahead score.
“In the second half it was tough,” Paul related. “I started second-guessing myself (and hesitating to shoot). (Byron Scott) put the ball in my hands, and I saw an open lane. I couldn’t make a jump shot, so I figured I’d drive in for a layup.”
New Orleans fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first half, but rallied back within one by intermission. Golden State racked up 57 points in the opening half, partly by drilling five three-pointers.
“I give our guys a lot of credit for sticking with it,” Scott said. “We felt pretty good about the deficit at halftime (of only one point), because we didn’t feel like we were playing very well.”
Other developments from Wednesday’s opener:
Rasual Butler was playing in a regular season game for the first time since March. He struggled in the opening half, but came through with seven fourth-quarter points, including a three-pointer and jumper early in the period. “He played well,” Scott assessed. “The first half he couldn’t make a shot, but in the second half he hit two big ones for us.”

In his first official game as a Hornet, James Posey canned several momentum-changing shots, finishing with 11 points, including 3-for-6 accuracy from three-point range. He also was responsible for a key defensive play with the game on the line. After Paul’s layup gave New Orleans a 104-103 lead, Golden State’s Stephen Jackson tried an inbounds pass to Corey Maggette – who was being defended closely by Posey – but the pass went out of bounds.

Paul ended up playing the entire second half, after Scott was dissatisfied with how the reserves performed in the first half. Backup point guard Mike James knocked down a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter, but after logging a total of eight minutes in the opening half, James sat the rest of the way.
“He just didn’t run the offense as well,” Scott assessed. “He was too anxious and too much in a hurry. He didn’t get guys where they needed to be at the offensive end. And that really hurt us. I (also) thought on the defensive end we stopped guarding. I told Chris late in the third quarter, ‘You will (play) this whole half, so get ready for it.’ ”

Julian Wright (ankle) was not ready to return to action and joined Sean Marks on the Hornets’ two-player inactive list. Melvin Ely and Ryan Bowen dressed but did not play. James, center Hilton Armstrong and guard Devin Brown received minutes but played primarily in the first half.

Byron Scott
“Great finish. I just hope that all of them don’t start off this way. I thought we got off to a rocky start, opening night and they’re all jacked up. That is a great team over there, they got so many different lineups that can really confuse you and I give a lot of credit to our guys for sticking to it. Especially in the first half when we got down 11 points and we cut down the deficit by halftime.”

Tyson Chandler
“We battled it out. It was a game on the road. Any win on the road is a good one, so for us to stay together, it shows good signs for us to start the season. The Western Conference is so good, every game is going to be a battle, especially when you’re facing a back to back. It is great for us to start the season against contenders.”

Chris Paul
“It was an ugly win, but it was the first game of the season and we will take it. The Warriors have a really good team. they made a lot of good shots, and stuck to their game plan and played well. I think it shows a lot of credit for our team. We have a long, long way to go, but to win this game in the situation on the road showed we had a lot of fight.”

Don Nelson
(On tonight’s game) “They have two of the best players in the league (Chris Paul & David West) on the same team. We knew they would hurt us… not that we played error-free but we followed our game plan pretty well. I was pretty proud of the fellas. I told the subs that I’m not going to be able to play these guys this many minutes on this next road trip or for long periods of time. ... I thought it was a good game, I enjoyed the competition and they’re very good and we played at a very high level so I have no complaints.“
Posted by at 9:58 AM