Hornets-Raptors: The Biggest Game of the Season?
In this young season to date, the most fitting way to describe the Hornets is inconsistent. In their opener against division rival San Antonio, New Orleans was crushed 113-96. After the middle of the second quarter, the game was never close.
The Hornets looked tired and confused in that game. It seemed as if they were picking up right where they left off in their abysmal playoff series against the Denver Nuggets.
Two nights later, in their home opener against the much-improved Sacramento Kings, the Hornets looked significantly more energetic and much crisper.
Granted, the Kings are not to the level of the Spurs, but they are substantially improved from last season. The Hornets came out on top, 97-92.
Next came the east coast All-Saints Day, All-Souls day trip. On November 1, the Hornets played the championship-contending Boston Celtics in a tight game.
The Hornets lost that game 97-87. In this writer's opinion, the Hornets could have and should have won. Although the margin was ten points, the they were in the game until the final two minutes.
Unlike Drew Brees and the undefeated New Orleans Saints, that play across the street from the Hive, the Hornets had not yet learned how to finish.
The next night, against the then-winless New York Knicks, it was a lack of defensive fundamentals that killed the Hornets. In their 117-111 victory, the Knicks outscored the Hornets 20-9 on second-chance points.
Losing the battle on second-chance points means one of two things has happened. You lost because the opponent was overwhelmingly, physically superior to you. The Knicks are not more physically talented than the Hornets.
It can also mean that on defense you failed to do the basics—like get in position, block out, and rebound—and on offense you failed to fight for position. This was the case in the Hornets-Knicks contest.
In their second home game last night against division rival Dallas, the Hornets seemed to learn how to finish, winning 114-107 in overtime. However, getting to that overtime period took the proper alignment of the stars.
Jason Terry missed a technical free throw and Jose Barea missed two foul shots, setting up a dramatic three-pointer by Peja Stojakovic, who had been 0-for-5 from downtown before that.
Now, the Hornets have a 2-3 record. It is vitally important that they play well in Friday's home game against Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh, and the Toronto Raptors.
A win tomorrow would bring them back to a .500 record. It would be the first winning streak of the season. It would establish the Hive as a road venue to be feared around the league.
But these are not the reasons that this game is critical. You see, I am attending the game with my youngest son, Daniel, who just turned thirteen. We have great seats.
With the cost of tickets combined with our hectic schedules, it is rare that we can attend a game in person.
Daniel has been playing competitive basketball since he was five years old. He thinks Chris Paul is the best.
There is a life-size Fathead of CP3 sitting in a shipping tube ready to go up as soon as the remodel of Daniel's bedroom is complete. His remodeled room is painted Hornets teal.
My son is quite a three-point shooter, having had to learn to shoot over me and his six-foot tall older brother. When Peja gets in "the zone" and starts draining them from all over the court, I can see Daniel's eyes light up.
For the sake of Daniel and the hundreds of other father-son outings that happen Friday night, I hope Chris Paul has the game of his life. I hope Peja comes off the bench and hits seven three-pointers in the second quarter.
I hope Emeka Okafor rejects five shots into the bleachers. I hope the Hornets win by twenty.
The Saints season to date has boosted the overall psyche of New Orleans. You can hear it in talk radio and see it in the black and gold banners and flags hanging all around town.
The excitement about the Saints in and around the City is so thick you can nearly feel it. I pray that the Hornets can even come close to generating this sort of buzz.
You see, it is important. Not just for the Hornets, but for fathers, sons, and the people of New Orleans. It can all start on Friday night.
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