Well, that sucked. The Hornets again ran into unstoppable shooting (this time partially of their own making) as they lost to the New Jersey Nets in overtime. The Hornets, behind poor perimeter defense and an uninspired Chris Paul, looked out of the game before a 29 point third quarter brought them back into it. A Chris Paul 3-pointer at the end of overtime went halfway down before spinning out and the Hornets lost 101-103. I was pumped to recap a Hornets victory and then Sasha Vujacic came and shot that idea down (along with a bunch of 3-pointers). Let’s do this…
I want to talk about the defense first and foremost. It is clear that the defense has been struggling since Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza got hurt. I’ve gone back and forth on which injury hurts the team more but it wasn’t until tonight that I saw how one injury magnifies the other. Allow me to explain…
The defensive rotations on the perimeter tonight were absolutely terrible. It was almost inexcusable how open they left some of the Nets shooters. The end result was the Nets (a team which average 5 3-pointers a game) hitting 12 of 23 (52.2%) from 3-point range. The Hornets are strong at defensive team-rebounding. Tonight it seemed they had a hard time pulling down many of the defensive boards they normally would have gotten. The lack of Emeka Okafor is evident; he would grab the rebound if someone else couldn’t. Tonight the Nets would grab an offensive rebound and kick the ball out to a wide open shooter who would knock down the shot. The Hornets have no one who can close on the perimeter fast enough. This happened on Monday against the Timberwolves as well. Sasha Vujacic couldn’t miss tonight, but that was because he had no one around him.
The Hornets also seemed to gravitate towards wherever the ball was. If the ball was in the corner on the left side, then the opposite side defenders were almost in the paint. A couple of quick passes around the perimeter for the Nets and they have an open 3-point attempt again. The ball was moving too fast for anyone to get back and cover the perimeter. Hopefully Monty looks at some game tape and fixes this ASAP.
- Chris Paul had one of his worst games ever (some might say the worst). 9 points in 51 minutes; 4-15 shooting; no points in the 1st, 2nd and 4th quarters. The 11 assists were nice but he paired that with 7(!) turnovers. Yes, his shot was not falling tonight, but he totally lacked any explosiveness. Monty has been playing him more and more minutes every game so hopefully he’s just worn down and needs a rest. The Hornets cannot expect Jarrett Jack, Willie Green and Marco Belinelli to be consistent scorers. If one of those three doesn’t score in double figures (and that is a very real possibility on any given night) then this game doesn’t go to overtime.
- David West tried his best to carry the team scoring 32 points and bringing down 15 rebounds. His jumper was falling and he just abused the rookie Derrick Favors in the paint. Oh, and played a staggering 53 minutes. Thank you for your effort, Mr. West
- Willie Green got the start at the 2-guard spot tonight and had a solid game. 19 points on 14 shots with no turnovers and a huge 3-pointer late in the 4th quarter. I like him starting because of his consistency compared to Belinelli. Speaking of Belinelli…
- He may be inconsistent as a starter he looked great coming off the bench. While Vujacic was draining 3-pointers for the Nets, Belinelli tried to answer him by hitting 5 of the Hornets’ 9 attempts from deep. He finished with 17 points on the night. The bench needs help with scoring and moving Belinelli to the pine might fix that. Taking him out of the lineup does create a lack of deep shooting, so to compensate Monty Williams started Sasha Pavlovic instead of the struggling Quincy Pondexter.
- Jarrett Jack played 30 minutes tonight because the Nets like to run a three guard lineup. His line looks good (12 points and 5 assists) but he was -14, the worst on the team.
- I like how Aaron Gray has played. He had 10 points and 11 rebounds tonight and is doing his hardest to replace Okafor. He had a great hook shot with a minute left in the 4th and is one of the reasons why the Hornets have been keeping some of these games close. He is unathletic and seems unaware of what’s happening while on defense, but hopefully the latter gets better with experience.
- With a minute left in the 3rd, Kris Humphries committed a goaltend which was actually called!
- David Andersen, Jason Smith and Marcus Thornton played 6 minutes each and contributed absolutely nothing. Normally I’d worry about the amount of minutes Monty played Paul and West but the only rotation player who did anything was Belinelli.
It was an ugly game for the Hornets but ultimately winnable. If the defense tightens up on the perimeter then they win this game no problem. There is no need to panic yet since Monty is a very good defensive coach. All this team needs is one or two corrections…or someone to come back from injury.