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11.20 The Cooler

Burned Out

By 11.20.09

Peja Stojakovic

No matter how old and inconsistent he gets, apparently Peja Stojakovic will always be able to light up the Suns. In what could have been one of those rock-bottom moments for the Hornets — national TV, no Chris Paul, interim coach, hosting a red-hot opponent who could conceivably drop 130 points on ’em and get them booed out of their own gym — N.O. showed some heart and pulled off an upset win behind Peja’s 25 points, 13 boards and seven threes. It wasn’t the first time Peja has taken down the Suns on a big stage: Remember the night Shaq got traded to Phoenix and Peja spoiled his first appearance at the arena with a buzzer-beating game winner? Remember the ’01 Kings/Suns playoff series where Young Peja dropped 37 in an elimination Game Four? … Starting Darren Collison in place of CP, the Hornets jumped out to a 15-2 lead thanks to dominating the glass and hustling on D, while the Suns looked like they were still trying to wake up from a night of hitting Bourbon Street. Eventually Steve Nash (13 pts, 10 asts) and Co. got it together and made it a ballgame, until Peja nailed a 27-footer to break a tie with a little under three minutes left, then Collison (15 pts, 5 asts) broke down the Nash/Amar’e pick-and-roll defense for a layup that was basically the dagger … One time Collison handed off to Devin Brown coming off a curl, and Brown threw up something vaguely resembling a jump shot that fell out of bounds as he fell to the ground. Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly Paul-to-David West … Unlike Byron Scott, interim coach Jeff Bower has no hesitation using Marcus Thornton. The rookie has been getting about 20 minutes per game since Bower took over, and he’s producing. Last night he dropped 19 points off the bench until he tweaked his ankle in the fourth quarter and didn’t return … If you were wondering why New Orleans wanted Emeka Okafor, this was the game to watch. Okafor (13 pts, 12 rebs) set the tone early with his offensive rebounding and defense, and provided some interior scoring on a night where D-West struggled (2-11 FG). One time Okafor met Amar’e at the rim and pinned his dunk attempt while Amar’e had one of those looks on his face where you hope nobody saw it but you know 20,000 people are in the building … By now you should know never to read too much into anything the Spurs do early in the season. Still, for a team expected to be right up there with the Lakers and Magic and the rest of the contenders, this slow start is a little alarming. Missing Tony Parker (ankle) and Manu Ginobili (groin), Tim Duncan had to carry the offense against the also short-handed Jazz, and the team struggled all night as the Jazz won for the first time in San Antonio since the ’90s … A select few teams in the League have a pick-and-roll combo better than Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, and it’s safe to say no team has two P-n-R combos better than D-Will/Booz and Eric Maynor/Paul Millsap. Maynor is still making his rookie adjustments, but it won’t be long before there’s not much of a drop-off when the starters go out and the backups take over. Boozer (18 pts, 11 rebs) was a beast in the fourth quarter last night, getting some timely and-ones; Millsap scored 20 off the bench … You can already see the confidence rising out of L.A. like a gigantic cloud of smug: They’ve got Pau Gasol back, they’ve got their full squad (minus Luke Walton), and they’re preparing to hit that championship-level groove. Gasol dropped 24 points and 13 boards in his season debut as the Lakers ran the Bulls by 15 points. It’s amazing how Gasol automatically makes the L.A. offense run so much smoother. Kobe scoring 40 and 45 points is fun to watch, but when Kobe can have 21 points and eight dimes and Gasol is doing his thing, the Lakers as a team are more dangerous … Did anybody think for a split-second that Derek Fisher might try for a dunk when he got that breakaway opportunity in the second quarter? Fish was just lucky Derrick Rose (20 pts) decided against sending his layup to the soda man … Kirk Hinrich must be the second coming of Jerry Sloan. Tough, smart, defensive grinder in the Bulls backcourt, and we could even see him coaching for 20-30 years after he’s done playing. Hinrich clocked Lamar Odom on a hard foul in the second half last night, then got right in Lamar’s face when the situation escalated. Just like Sloan back in the day, Hinrich will square up on anybody. If Shaq’s reality show gets another season, they should have an episode where Shaq fights Kirk Hinrich in an “I Quit” match. Our money’s on Kirk … We’re out like Shaq’s show …


TOPICS#Chris Paul#DERRICK ROSE#KOBE BRYANT
TAGSAMARE STOUDEMIREByron ScottCARLOS BOOZERCHARLES BARKLEYDARREN COLLISONDAVID WESTDERON WILLIAMSEmeka OkaforEric MaynorKARL MALONEKEVIN GARNETTkevin mchaleKirk HinrichLAMAR ODOMMANU GINOBILIMarcus ThorntonPAU GASOLPAUL MILLSAPPeja StojakovicShaquille O'NealSmackSTEVE NASHTIM DUNCANTONY PARKER

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