The Big 12 Tournament hits town this week, which promises to be the biggest basketball event in Oklahoma City history. Looks like that distinction will last longer than six weeks.
The NBA playoffs, which would trump the Big 12 not in economic impact but in prestige, will have to wait. The Hornets aren't going. Not this season anyway. Not after this start to the fateful month of March. The Utah Jazz schooled the Hornets 108-94 Sunday night at the Ford Center. The Hornets led 15-5 halfway through the first quarter, then went nine straight possessions without a point. To show they could nap on defense as well as offense, the Hornets allowed Utah to score on 10 straight possessions in the third quarter, turning this one into a rout. To prove no fluke was involved, the Jazz scored on nine straight possessions in the fourth quarter. Oh, defense, where art thou? March felled Caesar. The Hornets are in good company. The Hornets play just six of their 15 March games at the Ford Center. Sweeping those six likely was mandatory to stay in the playoff hunt. But two games into March, the Hornets are a skidding 0-2, with a Western road trip this week to Denver, Phoenix and Utah. Uh-oh. By the time the Big 12 clears the Ford Center, the Hornets could be several teams and several games back of the Western Conference's eighth seed. "We better start winning games,” said Hornets coach Byron Scott. "Those two teams in front of us, they're not going to keep losing.” That would be the Nuggets and Clippers, but the truth is the Hornets have not been salty enough to make a playoff run.
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The Hornets' Marc Jackson gets tangled up with Utah's Jarron Collins (left) and Paul Millsap as they battle for a rebound during Sunday night's game at the Ford Center. The Jazz beat the Hornets 108-94 BY JOHN CLANTON, THE OKLAHOMAN