NEW ORLEANS LA - JANUARY 22: Chris Paul #3 and Trevor Ariza #1 of the New Orleans Hornets celebrate during the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the New Orleans Arena on January 22 2011 in New Orleans Louisiana. The Hornets defeated the Spurs 96-72. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and/or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Jump on it.
There's a great line in one of my favorite video games of all time, NBA Showtime, that always cracked me up. The game commentator, who would routinely yell wildly insane things like "Boomshakalaka!" and "AAAHAAAaaaaAaHHAAAAAAAAAAA," could sometimes be heard to say, in a rather detached manner, "Dunks are for two." It always seemed out of place, especially juxtaposed with the rest of the game's preposterous descriptions of ludicrous throw downs.
The overall point, it would appear, was to drive home the fact that even the fanciest dunk is only worth two points. And in many ways, I was reminded of that line tonight. The win against the Spurs qualifies as a little more than 1% of a long, long season. But this one felt especially sweet.
There was, firstly, the matter of what transpired on the floor. The offense played inspired basketball; virtually every player that stepped on the floor tonight for New Orleans made some sort of contribution. Trevor Ariza hit the threes that sent the crowd into a frenzy. David West fought and fought and fought on the offensive glass. Marco Belinelli didn't shoot well, but Monty Williams showed confidence in him by returning to him over and over. Marcus Thornton flat out balled. Emeka Okafor, Chris Paul, and Jarrett Jack all played roles.
Defensively, the team was simply ridiculous. I'll have more on the specifics of our defensive game tomorrow, but it's tough to put into words the way we've played defense the last two days. I'll say it right now- Emeka Okafor is just as good of an interior help defender as Tyson Chandler ever was for us. I called Friday night the epitome of the Hornet 2010-2011 defense, but I clearly spoke too soon.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, was what happened off the court. We've heard for so many months the implications of missing the attendance benchmark. For a while, it appeared a potential long shot. But that was before the rally to meet the mark began. Save Our Hornets and local leaders and businesses stepped up in a big way. Tonight was the culmination of a remarkable momentum shift, one that's led us to the brink of the benchmark. The Arena was loud. We all felt it, including Gregg Popovich, who burned a timeout just a minute into a game. When the Hornets went on their 21-0 run in the third quarter, it almost seemed like fans were about to storm the court. And when Okafor swatted those two shots back-to-back? Oh man. New Orleans- its coaching staff, its players, its fans- sent a message tonight.
At the end of the day, yes, this was one game. The Spurs may be the league's best team, but they were on the road, on a back to back, and even elite teams lie down every now and again. Mathematically, this was just another tiny subset of a months long grind. But emotionally and qualitatively, this game transcended all of those concepts.
Dunks are for two, except when they aren't.