Hornets Defeat Clippers In Physical Game
The New Orleans Arena was soldout Thursday night as New Orleans Hornets fans welcomed former point guard Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers to the Hive. The warm welcome ended at tip-off, as the Hornets spoiled Paul's homecoming. The hometeam played inspired basketball as they bruised and battered the Clippers on the way to a physical 97-90 victory.
Paul received cheers and jeers from the New Orleans fans, admitting that his emotions were running high before the game.
"There was a lot of emotions going through my head," Paul explained. "But as soon as they threw the ball up, all of that was out the window."
And so was the idea that the Hornets would roll over and allow highlight dunks. All-Star Blake Griffin led all scorers with 21, but the Clipper power forward was challenged all night. The physicality hit its peak in the 4th quarter when Hornets power forward Jason Smith (pictured left) body checked Griffin on a fast break.
"I apologize to Blake Griffin. I didn't want to hurt him at all. I just wanted to try and cut off his lane to the basket," stated Smith in postgame.
He was charged with a flagrant 2 foul and was ejected from the game. A one to two game suspension is most likely coming from the NBA league office for the hard foul. Smith had a fantastic game however, scoring a season-high 17 points in his return to the starting lineup.
While the focus centered about Paul's return to New Orleans, Hornets Center Chris Kaman was facing his former team as well. His inspired, aggresive play seemed to filter through the entire Hornets lineup. Kaman finished with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. He also blocked 4 shots.
New Orleans point guard Jarrett Jack (17 pts, 9 ast), Paul's close friend, outplayed his former teammate, scoring one more point than Paul and matching him in assists.
The Hornets (12-35) will stay at home for a Saturday matchup against Southwest division rival San Antonio. Tip-off versus the Spurs is set for 7:00.