The amazing thing about a team that ranks as lowly as the New Orleans Hornets, is that on certain nights, when the opponent is weak, motivation low, and everybody just wants to stay in and watch TiVo’d Homeland, they can still dig out a win. The recent match-up with the Charlotte Bobcats, featuring the NBA’s two top rookies, at least provided some incentive, if nothing more than to see the clash of long eyebrows with long socks.
There was also a weird symmetry at play in the meeting with an unremarkable ‘Cats ball club, whose lack of wins—and brand recognition—found itself pitted against its alter-ego. (It’s widely believed that once New Orleans changes its moniker, the Bobcats will transform into the Hornets, colours, pin stripes and everything). After all, the nickname dates back to the Revolutionary War in Charlotte, when British General Charles Cornwallis likened the resistance in Charlotte to a hornet’s nest. There’s also the small fact that Charlotte is home to the original Hornets.
In this instance, the current Hornets shot 43% from the field, seemingly not enough against the Bobcats’ 49%, who even more impressively hit a ridiculous 63% in the first-half. That equated to a 17-point lead at the break, a tally compiled mostly by the No.2 overall pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who made 9-of-11 shots, and Kemba Walker’s 6-of-8. This type of near-immaculate effort would sink the majority of NBA teams, who, post Christmas turkey, would surely be thrilled to have an early night. But unfortunately for the home team, the future New Orleans Pelicans are plucky. Who knew?
If the startling shooting wasn’t enough for New Orleans to overcome, they were also out-rebounded and scored fewer points in the paint (58 to 32). And that’s still not even the whole story. The Hornets didn’t log a single fast-break point, while Charlotte, with 17 straight losses, had 27 on the break. Those points, driven by the relentless Walker, were a tangible difference: But the impact of running the opponent up and down the court, too, can’t be underestimated. And still the Hornets stayed abuzz.
So how in the world did New Orleans win this rather meaningless game? Well, No.1 overall pick, Anthony Davis, helped with 10 boards, and Grievis Vasquez’s 8 assists fueled the offense. But the return of shooting guard, Eric Gordon, who’s missed 29 games rehabbing a sore knee, ultimately powered the pinstriped squad. His 24 points off the bench ignited a second-half rally that bodes well for the Hornets in the new year.
As if he hadn’t missed a beat, Gordon was 12-of-14 from the free-throw line and scored 16 of his points during the Hornets’ second-half comeback. It wasn’t just his scoring though, for which the barrel-chested guard has become recognized. Gordon added seven assists and two steals to his tally. Importantly, he’s provided a much needed shake to the hive. Gordon looks happy to be back on court with his teammates, and said so after the game. But if this very young Hornets team has trouble posting more wins, these types of fun nights with Gordon at the two-spot will become as much a memory as the color of teal in New Orleans.