Houston 100 | New Orleans 80
The big victory over Dallas marked the beginning of a virtually insane schedule for the next few weeks. Consider this: after the All-Star break (but before March) we play six straight playoff-bound teams. Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Washington, Phoenix, Utah. Boom. (Ouch is a better descriptor). The good news? If the Hornets continue playing as well as they have all season, they have a legit chance of sweeping (or almost sweeping) that set. The only problem is that we can't afford an off night. Actually, at this point, no team in the West can afford one. Regardless, the win against the "revamped" Mavs was a strong statement that would hopefully provide some steam to keep the ball rolling through the hellish eleven days that laid ahead. Even though we were on a four game winning streak heading into the break, the bulk of those were fairly ugly wins against sub-par teams.
I'm not trying to sound all gloom and doom because I know we have a great squad, but the truth is we had been playing sloppily before the break. Now, the league has given us an opportunity to make up for that stretch and prove our worth with a difficult lineup.
So what happened in the Houston game? Well, not much by most counts. We appeared to be sleeping as they coasted to their 11th straight. Despite being our third sellout (that Yao sure can draw a crowd), the Hornets faired poorly and lost by a much larger margin than they're used to. Where did it all go wrong. For starters, Houston shot the lights out, draining 50% of their shots to our 40%. We had a remarkable inability to rebound anything and finished with 38 to their 55. The real problem here is that none of our jump shooters showed up. Peja and Mo were MIA (Mo's been like that lately). And Pargo couldn't pick up any slack. Usually when Pargo struggles, Byron shifts control to Bobby Jackson; however Bobby's absence (and the fact that Wells and James showed up, but weren't dressed) forced Byron to try other (futile) tactics.
David was about the only person who matched his averages. CP3 was close to his nightly contributions, but the presence of Yao in the lane thwarted his typical drives to the bucket. You could tell he was hesitating at thought of tossing one of his signature shots over a guy who dwarfs Tyson (dwarf is a strong word as only 6 inches separate the two, but still Tyson soaking wet might equal half of Yao's weight). Interestingly enough, Byron put JuJu in with seven minutes to play, and he promptly dropped 10 points. Granted, he was playing against mostly scrubs towards the end, but some of those came against TMac.
You win some, you lose some. We were outplayed and that's the bottom line. We couldn't have hit sand if we'd fallen from a camel. But am I worried? No. We still have a very talented squad and I sincerely believe that the new members of the team will make a positive impact... even if it's an expensive one. There are good things in store for this team... and I couldn't be more excited about it.
Before the game, I had the opportunity to meet none other than Melvin Ely. Admit it, you are all jealous. He's a man of few words, but he does have a sense of humor... or maybe he just laughed at my jokes because he wanted to get out of there quicker... hmmm...
Melvin and Lee say, "Drink 7up... forever."
One final thought before I leave you. I was going through some old podcasts and found a PTI one from February 8 where they did their "5 Good Minutes" segment with CP3. He is quite mature for his age. He didn't boast and he was very thoughtful in his answers. He's very aware of his role and what he can affect and control. This is a good thing. He also thinks the post-blockbuster Suns might be a bigger challenge than the post-grand-theft-Spaniard Lakers. Only time will tell.