The NBA: Swarm of Sorrow

New Orleans fans won't have a lot to cheer about
for the next couple of seasons.
*All images are from the Associated Press.

"Words can't even describe it, to be honest. That's really what's been happening to us all season. We just haven't been able to close out games for whatever reason. Tonight we were able to put it all together and pull out a W." - Hornets guard Jarrett Jack

I don’t think the Hornets will be pulling out many more Ws as the season enters its last third.

After the 2010-2011 season saw New Orleans getting to the playoffs and giving the Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle in the first round, the Hornets have tumbled and fallen into obscurity this season. The biggest impact they’ve made on the whole league was actually something before the season even started – trading Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Needless to say, New Orleans is in a bind now. At 11-34, they have the worst record in the West and third-worst in the whole 30-team field. They’ve won just 3 of their last 12 games and are set to have 13 more games against teams with winning records before the season ends in late April. I doubt they’ll get to the 20-win vicinity and perhaps not even in the 15-win area.

So what went wrong here?

A quick look at the roster can provide a simple answer: they got rid of their two best guys in Chris Paul and David West. 

And, yes, they did get some quality talent in replacement, but Eric Gordon has played just 2 games and Chris Kaman, though certainly serviceable, is no consistent game-changer. New Orleans will probably want to build even more talent around the athletic Gordon when he gets healthy, and they have some interesting pieces right now who might be able to blossom (Gustavo Ayon, Marco Belinelli, and Greivis Vasquez have all had breakout games this season). In other words, New Orleans will be rebuilding, and they’re certainly bound for more disappointment for maybe two more seasons. As for Kaman, however, it’s pretty clear his best is behind him and it might serve the Hornets better to find a willing trading partner for him in the long offseason they’re bound to have.

All in all, it’s clear both CP3 and David West benefitted from leaving New Orleans. Paul is lounging around in California throwing lobs to BG and DeAndre, while West is out in the East toughening up the Pacers for what could be a memorable playoff stint. 

And the Hornets they left behind?

Nothing but a swarm of sorrows.

After the JUMP, March 18, 2012 stat-stuffers:

ATL over CLE, 103-87
Joe Johnson netted a game-high 28 points as the undermanned Atlanta Hawks rolled over the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hawks were without forwards Marvin Williams (hip), Vladimir Radmanovic (back) and Al Horford (torn pectoral muscle), but still earned their second straight victory. Alonzo Gee had 20 points and Kyrie Irving recorded a double-double with 19 points and 10 assists as Cleveland dropped its third straight contest.

LAC over DET, 87-83 (OT) 
Chris Paul scored nine of his 19 points in overtime, including the go-ahead jumper, and the Los Angeles Clippers finished a six-game homestand with a win over the Detroit Pistons. Blake Griffin had a game-tying tip-in with 19.2 seconds left in regulation and finished with 17 points for the Clippers. Greg Monroe had six of Dteroit’s nine points in OT and finished with 23 and 15 rebounds. 

MEM over WAS, 97-92
Rudy Gay pulled down 9 rebounds and scored a season-high 27 points to lead Memphis over the Washington Wizards. Mike Conley tallied 17 points and handed out 6 assists to salvage a 1-2 record on the Grizzlies' three-game homestand. John Wall filled the stat sheet with 25 points, 6 assists and 6 rebounds, and Jordan Crawford added 22 points as Washington dropped to 1-4 on its current six-game road trip.

SAC over MIN, 115-99
Marcus Thornton scored 24 points, Isaiah Thomas had 18 and the Sacramento Kings went over .500 on a franchise-record homestand victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Kings improved to 4-3 on the nine-game residency with their second win in a row. Kevin Love had 21 points and 11 rebounds for Minnesota but had to be separated from JJ Barea after exchanging words with his teammate during a timeout late in the game. The Timberwolves have lost five of six to fall two games below .500 for the season. 

MIA over ORL, 91-81
Dwyane Wade poured in 14 points in the fourth quarter en route to a game-high 31 to lift Miami over the Orlando Magic. Chris Bosh added 23 to go with 7 rebounds, and LeBron James filled the stat sheet with 14 points, 12 boards, 7 assists and 5 steals as the Heat notched their 13th straight home victory. Dwight Howard scored 18 and grabbed 11 rebounds while Quentin Richardson added five three-pointers off the bench for the Magic, who have dropped two of their last three contests.

PHX over HOU, 99-86
Michael Redd scored a season-high 25 points and the Suns downed the Rockets. Channing Frye had 19 points and Marcin Gortat added 15 and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns have won four straight and 11 of 14 overall. Luis Scola scored 18 points to pace the Rockets, who were coming off Saturday's loss to the Clippers.

UTA over LAL, 103-99
Paul Millsap's 24 points led six Utah players in double figures as the Jazz took down the Lakers. Enes Kanter and Alec Burks finished with 17 points apiece -- a new career-high for Burks -- while Derrick Favors, Josh Howard and Devin Harris all tallied 12 points for the Jazz, who won their third straight contest. Andrew Bynum poured in a game-high 33 points to go with 11 rebounds and Pau Gasol had 18 and 10, respectively for Los Angeles, which saw a five-game winning streak snapped. 

OKC over POR, 111-95
Russell Westbrook scored 28, Kevin Durant had 26 and the Thunder cruised past the Trail Blazers. James Harden added 14 points for Oklahoma City, which was coming off Friday's loss to the Spurs. The Thunder halted a two-game home skid with this victory. Jamal Crawford paced Portland with 23 points. 

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
Andrew Bynum (LAL) – 33
Dwyane Wade (MIA) – 31
Russell Westbrook (OKC) & Joe Johnson (ATL) – 28 

Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Greg Monroe (DET) – 15
Zaza Pachulia (ATL), LeBron James (MIA), & Kevin Seraphin (WAS) – 12 

Greg Monroe continues to develop as one of the league's
most promising young big men.
Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Chris Paul (LAC) – 15
Steve Nash (PHX) – 11
Kyrie Irving (CLE) – 10 

Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
Paul Millsap (UTA), Chris Singleton (WAS), & LeBron James (MIA) – 5 

Chris Singleton was a defensive demon, racking up
5 steals and 3 blocks.
Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
Serge Ibaka (OKC) & Joel Anthony (MIA) – 4
Chris Singleton (WAS), Wesley Johnson (MIN), & John Wall (WAS) – 3 

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Quentin Richardson (ORL) – 5
Isaiah Thomas (SAC) & Kevin Durant (OKC) – 4 

March 18, 2012 First Five
C – Andrew Bynum (LAL) – 33pts, 11rebs, 2blks, 1ast, 1stl
F – Paul Millsap (UTA) – 24pts, 9rebs, 5asts, 5stls, 2blks
F – Kevin Durant (OKC) – 26pts, 7ebs, 6asts, 4 treys, 3stls, 1blk
G – Joe Johnson (ATL) – 28pts, 5asts, 4rebs, 3 treys, 1stl
G – Chris Paul (LAC) – 19pts, 15asts, 9rebs, 4stls

Can Joe Johnson and the Hawks make any deep impact
in the 2012 playoffs?
Honorable Mention:
Dwyane Wade (MIA) – 31pts, 6rebs, 4asts, 1stl, 1blk
John Wall (WAS) – 25pts, 6rebs, 6asts, 3stls, 3blks
Rudy Gay (MEM) – 27pts, 9rebs, 2asts, 2stls, 1blk

Daily Zap:

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Sports Network.

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