Verbal volleys and prognostications and predictions from The Times Sports staff posted every day. Read their views from the sidelines and from the comfort of their office chairs. These Monday morning quarterbacks rarely wait until Monday to call it like they see it.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
LIVE BLOG: Shaq's back in La.
HORNETS WIN 120-103 Great game, great crowd. SHAQ'S RETURN SO-SO Shaquille O'Neal had a monster slam or two, but didn't do much to impress. O'Neal finishes with 15 points and seven rebounds. Amare Stoudemire had 32. HORNETS TIGHTEN THINGS UP FURTHER New Orleans will win big to move to 38-18 and pull into a virtual tie with Phoenix (39-19). Chris Paul and David West were incredible tonight, but Jannero Pargo was exceptional. The kid from Arkansas came off the bench to break the 20-point mark and ignite the crowd several times. Tonight's game is why the Hornets continue to fly under the radar in the NBA. West, Paul, Pargo, Chandler, Stojakovic -- they are names well respected around the league, but not ones that people jump off their couch to turn on and watch. Maybe they're missing something, because tonight's game was incredibly entertaining. SELLOUT! The announced crowd is 17,931, a sellout. The crowd filled in nicely after the opening tip -- it was a 7 p.m. start -- and the Hornets need more nights like this to raise their attendance toward 14,000. MVP! MVP! MVP! The electric crowd is chanting for Chris Paul, who has 18 points and 15 assists midway through the fourth quarter. The Hornets' lead is still 19. HORNETS MAKING THIS A LAUGHER It appears New Orleans' three-game losing streak is going to come to an end tonight. David West is on fire and the Hornets are showing incredible balance as they take a 97-77 lead into the fourth quarter. After West's 25, there are already FIVE Hornets in double figures (Chris Paul 16, Jannero Pargo 16, Peja Stojakovic 13, Morris Peterson 11 and Tyson Chandler 10). HORNETS HEAT UP, LEAD Peja Stojajovic’s 3-pointer with 3:22 left in the first half sent the crowd into a tizzy here and gave the Hornets a 53-51 lead. After a Suns timeout and a turnover, Tyson Chandler threw down a monster slam that sent everyone in the building onto their feet. New Orleans hits the locker room with a 59-55 lead. 3-POINTERS PUT SUNS ON TOP AFTER ONE Back-to-back 3s in the final moments of the first quarter helped the Suns take a 29-25 lead after one period. Shaq has played about 6 minutes. Amare Stoudemire leads the Suns with 10 points while David West has 13 for New Orleans. Phoenix shot 4-of-5 from long distance in the opening quarter while the Hornets missed both their attempts. LITTLE DISAPPOINTED BY THE ATTENDANCE There are plenty of seats to be had at New Orleans Arena tonight, which is a bit disappointing. Remember, if the Hornets don't average near 14,700 this season, they have an out in their contract here and could leave after a financial penalty. Currently, New Orleans averages in the mid-12,000 range. SHAQ NOT DOING MUCH EARLY; SUNS LEAD BY A BUCKET We're halfway through the first quarter and the Suns have a 14-12 lead. Shaq has been strong on the defensive board, but hasn't been involved in the offense. He one opportunity heavily contested in the paint, but missed the shot. AS EXPECTED, SHAQ GETS BIGGEST OVATION Time to tip this one off. SHAQ'S FIRST GAME IN NEW ORLEANS SINCE ... Tonight will be Shaq's first game PLAYING in New Orleans since April 2, 2005. He was injured when the Miami Heat played here in January and last year's Hornets-Heat game was played in Oklahoma City -- Shaq was injured then, too. The teams also played at Ford Center in the 2005-06. The last time O'Neal played here, he had 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Heat pounded the Hornets 111-99. WHY WE'RE HERE Greetings from New Orleans Arena where the Hornets are set to face Shaq Daddy and the Phoenix Suns. The atmosphere should be pretty special tonight as the former LSU star has made a huge splash with the Suns and of course people here absolutely adore him. From a writer's point of view, there is no better quote in all of sports than Shaquille O'Neal. The guy has dealing with the media down pat and always provides the best anyone in our business could ask for. I've taken a small break from the Girls Top 28 tourney in Hammond to come down here and work on a piece about the Hornets. Be on the look out for the story in the near future. The Hornets have been a pleasant surprise in the NBA this season and led the tough Western Conference until last week. While the Hornets are fighting for a playoff spot in the NBA, they are also fighting to stay in New Orleans. Check in all night for details on the Hornets-Suns game as well as Shaq.