Nuggets/Hornets Game 3 Recap
Things get flagrant in the Big Sleazy
-Walking over, I get on the end-of-season review train of thought. All around me, fans in Hornets gear stroll towards the Hive. Last year, you had a better chance of finding a Tulane baseball jersey in a supermarket or sporting goods store than a David West jersey. Now, the full spectrum of merchandise spreads out in front of me.
The franchise has hit an on-court roadbump, but from the wide angle, this is the pinnacle of their time in New Orleans to date. No longer a novelty, the Hornets are part of the fabric, with black folks and white folks rocking Peja jerseys, the team a new, post-storm phenomenon. Whether they contend this year or next, being a Hornets fan today is a lot different than the long-honed humility of Saints fanship.
Larger point: think a little harder when discussing the NBA and economics with such dire certainty. This is a success story in a small, battered market, and perhaps working within the limits of a city that needs you is a good place to survive in.
-On the court: I don’t think this is over, but the Hornets as they are constructed are just about shot. You’re locked into Posey for another 3 years, you have developed exactly zero young players to go with your genius PG, your All-Star power-forward doesn’t rebound, and your center is likely gone or a real injury threat in the future. For about 30 games, your coach (who signed an extension last offseason, but—if I read the paper right today—didn’t exactly get a vote of confidence from the owner) has been unable to get anything out of anyone but your top 2 players (who he hasn’t rested) and takes young players from starters minutes to no minutes in a matter of 2 games. On-the court: I’m a little worried.
-Next to the arena, homeless people sleep in the carport of the giant, vacant Hyatt. An empty hotel + the destitute asleep on the sidewalk = the relationship between irony and tragedy.
-12pm tipoff means steak and eggs in the media room. Decent.
-National Anthem performed by New Orleans piano great Henry Butler. In about 1997, I saw Henry (who’s blind) judge a big butt contest at a bar called the Funky Butt on Rampart Street. I miss those days.
-Tyson gets crossed over by Lips Martin, then picks up an offensive foul. Rough 1st minute. Picks up his second a minute later.
-Does Denver remind anyone else of Golden State ’06, even a little bit? I know they play better D and they aren’t the underdog, but that brash crew of scorers and physical freakishness led by a redeemed point god…
-Eight minutes in, Nuggs are up 20-6 and Byron calls the second TO of the 1st quarter.
-Sean Marks gets a block, gets Nene to travel, then dunks on JR. People here really boo JR, who then receives a message foul, getting mugged by Posey & Marks…and no call. A message mug, I guess. Like “World’s Greatest Grandma.”
-The Bees begin to cut into the lead, playing more physically, while the refs stink it up on both ends and the crowd inexplicably turns on the Birdman. “Birdman, you suck!” New Orleans, I thought Birdman was your boy?! He eats it up with a WWE counter-taunt. Really, of all people to taunt, you probably couldn’t find thicker skin, er, feathers, than his.
-The Honeybees toss red plastic balls into the stands. Lots of good stuff there.
-CP3 is on his team to protect the paint and pay attention. They tie it up at 35.
-Funny spot from the Hornets on the jumbotron: “Cash 4 Gold (Nuggets).” Cash for gold has always been a big industry here, and they ham it up good, with fast talk from Joe Block, Hugo accepting Nuggets gear in exchange for paper, even give a 1-800-CASH-4NUG hotline.
-Reggie Bush & Little Wayne on the opposite baseline.
-Isn’t leaving JR alone on the 3 point line like letting companies rate the stocks they’re selling? Wait…
-Chris is pissed at a defensive lapse by TC. He takes it out on the Denver D, going right down the paint for 2, then hitting West nicely, tied 46-46.
-TC takes a huge charge from Lips Martin. Like I said last time, Tyson has a lot more riding on this series than people realize.
-With Peja fairly cold so far, isn’t it redundant to put him in with Posey?
-Former Saint Mike McKenzie (who has a personalized Hornets #34 jersey, with the name “Trey-Four” on the back) has some exchange with Lips Martin from his baseline seat on the otherside of the basket from me. I like.
-Chaotic final 2 minutes, which is just crazy enough to work for the Hornets. 50-47 at the buzzer, when Chauncey fires the ball into the stands. Crowd loves that. Things are getting interesting.
-Nice summer suit, Jon Barry. Where’s your panama hat and cigar, player?
-Kermit Ruffins, Henry Butler, and Jeremy Davenport are the halftime show. Currently the first weekend of Jazzfest, the big music event sponsored by Shell Oil, who gutted our wetlands. Eat me, Shell Oil. Right now, a baby boomer is wasted, sunburned, and gasping for air to the sounds of James Taylor on the fairgrounds because of you.
-Rasual hits the deck, so CP3 circles his fallen body to create space, then no-looks to DWest to complete a 6-0 opening run. Because, you know, he’s all over-rated or something.
-Tyson tells Melo, you don’t want me. Next time down, he sets a hard pick that send Melo to the floor. #3 on Tyson. Melo comes down, hits jumper in the big man’s grill. So Tyson finishes his first alley-oop of the game, then stupidly picks up #4 at the other end. He’s losing his composure. Byron is like, no, really, keep playing like that.
-Aggression during dead balls is a key to the mental edge in the playoffs. Once the play is blown dead, don’t let the other guy hold onto the ball or talk too long with the refs. When there’s down time, you work the refs or pay attention to who’s coming off the opposite bench. Billups and CP3 both do this well.
-Posey now looks 50 years old. Soon exits to the locker room. Hmm.
-Tyson blows a dunk, to which Dante Jones adds some comment. So Tyson obliges the next time down and commits #5 on Jones’ lay-up attempt. I guess now he can sit, yeah, now that he didn’t somehow regain composure on his own. Good to let him pick up as many as he can, then sub him out. Good way to be a mentor, sure. Chess, not checkers, oh yes.
-Fortunately, Chris is playing a great game, has 25/9. Chauncey wraps him up on a lay-up attempt, infuriating the hometown crowd. JR keeps missing.
-Posey takes down Birdman, called for a flagrant, and TECH! TECH ON BYRON SCOTT! I WAS HERE! I SAW HISTORY! Place is going wild. Billups misses the tech, Birdman hits 1 of 2, and the Lord just turned up the volume with only 1 point. Hallelujah!
-Chris rushes JR, bangs knees, draws a make-up flagrant. For some reason, David West gets to take the FT, as he does most N.O. techs, cause he’s sensitive or something. Chris hits both of his, gets the MVP chant.
-Lips Martin and 1. A deadly Rasual 3 closes the quarter, 77-72 Hornets. Good time for the Honeybees.
-West does have a drivers’ license, finds bucket.
-CP3 must have some alternative theory about the switch. Whenever he gets the big stranded on him, he holds up and waits for the other mismatch, often too long and getting the ball to teammates who can’t create their own shot. As smart as he is, he must have a reason for not taking quick advantage of the bigger man, who he can usually beat at will. I trust him, I’m just unclear.
-Terrible calls on both ends, all game.
-Posey and Melo, the game could (should?) come down to them. After all, N.O. signed Posey for games like this, and Melo is ostensibly a clutch superstar. Let’s watch.
-Hornets bench makes a nice stand. Rasual hits a 3 and JR is still cold.
-Man these refs are sucking the life out of this game with 3 second calls and hand checking.
-Heckling has finally come to this arena, as I’ve advocated for 2 years now in the non-professional seats. Tonight, a dude is on Lips Martin hard, but Lips points to his own mouth. I turn around a see a big gap in the heckler’s teeth. Kinda funny. Someone else orders DWest to “Play hard, stop playing soft!” Which is true, but maybe you can wait until dude finishes his free throws.
-Tyson is in for about 90 seconds, fouls out. Would you rather have Joe Smith right now? I’m asking just for the next 3 games, not the next 3 years.
-Chauncey flagrant on Rasual, bloodies his nose, looks to mess up his left eye, too. Once you start hurting Sual, that’s when I draw the line.
-Nene fouls out. 90-79 Hornets. JR hits a 3, DWest lays one-in, Melo fouls Butler. Timeout Denver, 1:44 left, 92-84. Reggie and Weezy on their feet.
-After a foul is called, whistle blown, Chris shoots the jumper anyway. Lips Martin decides to block it into the stands, to considerable ridicule.
-Melo hits a 3, N.O. shot clock violation, then Lips hits 2 FT’s, 94-91. Cue Welcome to the Jungle. Usually kind of a cliché choice, but this game does have a sort of screechy, bitchy, tattooed, Axl Rose-d persona.
-Peja misses, Billups fouls out DWest. Take us home, Sean Marks. The veteran hits both, 94-93 Hornets with :25 to go.
-Posey loses the inbounds. Denver takes its last timeout, and suddenly the place is tight, as the season hangs in the brink. No entreaties to dance will move them. Then, the giant John Belushi PA announcer stands up and lays it on thick, and the crowd begins to roar again.
-Melo loses the ball on a reckless drive, and Posey fights it away from the scrum, is fouled. What did I say about those two? Pose hits 1 of 2, Melo can’t connect from long-range, and it’s over. 95-93.
-Wait around in the press room, hear from Byron and Karl. Eh. Byron is his normal calm self, while Karl is in his usual, gaseous pain. He makes a good point when I ask if they were a little out of control: this is the playoffs.
-I head out into the heat, buy a can of beer off some dude with a cooler. On the main street outside the arena, a postal truck has wrecked into a Ryder truck. Might be something in that…?