By Alejandro de los Rios
There are many ways too look at tonight's victory - the fact that it was Boston's first loss to a Southwest Division team; That the Hornets outplayed the best team in the league and stayed atop the Western Conference; How David West outplayed Kevin Garnett (whom coach Byron Scott had called one of the best three power forwards in the history of the game) to the tune of 39 points.
I'm going to go with this: 18,280. That's the number of fans in attendance tonight, all of which stayed standing for the final 9 minutes of the fourth quarter. In case you're wondering, the Hornets record for attendance is 18,582 on 4/2/05 against Miami.
Talking to several people in the Hornets organization and people who've been around the team all season, the general consensus is that this if this wasn't the loudest the Hive has been all season, it's never been louder. Well, everyone said that except coach Scott.
"I didn't hear them at all," he said.
Of course he was joking. What really happened was that his players couldn't hear him.
"When I was trying to bark play calls to Chris [Paul] and he couldn't hear me, I could tell it was loud."
Had the Hornets been dominating the whole game, the crowd noise would be easy to explain. But they didn't. The Hornets lost the lead 1 minute, 54 seconds into the game and didn't regain it until the 6:12 mark in the fourth quarter. During that time, the Hornets trailed by as much 15, but the crowd never wavered. West had a simple explanation:
"The people brought it tonight," he said.
"It" was an emotion and atmosphere nearly unmatched all season. Julian Wright looked at the grand scheme of things.
"It's a great feeling," he said. "To be part of something bigger than yourself and get everyone involved. It's ripe for a great playoff series with whoever we playing."
Speaking of playoffs, I had the privilege to sit next to Chris Palmer from ESPN (the same guy that wrote this ESPN the Magazine piece on Chris Paul) and he mentioned several times that there was a playoff atmosphere in the building. This was the third time Palmer has been in New Orleans, the first two being the week he was here interviewing Paul and during the All-Star break. None of those times treated him to a game like tonight's.
Now the Hornet face a 6-game road trip. You can bet that they'll be riding high after this game. The key now, of course, is to win on the road (something the team has been able to do all season) and to come back hot in order to continue to draw big crowds for their playoff run. Come playoff time, though, drawing attendance should be no problem.
As the game ended and Palmer and I headed to the post-game press conference, I told him that he should come back again some time.
"Maybe for the Finals," he said.
I don't think he was joking.