The Hornets Beat the Timberwolves

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Published: February 9, 2009

Through League Pass, I got to hear the game called by the Timberwolves announcers, and I thought they were a pretty solid pair.  The color guy, in particular, uses efficiencies and pace factor and all the little stats I love.  Early in the fourth, their color guy said “Chandler and Paul are out, West was ejected in the second quarter, and Peja and Posey have combined for 11 points.  Can you believe we don’t have a twenty point lead?”

Neither could I.  Like in Portland when Chandler took the walk of shame, the guys stepped up with West being tossed, and came away with a hard fought win the Hornets desperately needed.

Tonight, I get the joy of recapping a win focusing a good light on Byron Scott, Sean Marks, Rasual Butler, Devin Brown, and in some ways, Julian Wright.  How nice is that?

Observations

  • First, give it up to Byron Scott, folks.  The vaunted ball movement you were all hollering for?  It was in full effect tonight.  They opened the game cutting and moving, with Peja setting down screens for Daniels and Butler before fading high for open shots off of picks by West or Bowen.  You’ll also notice that of the 13 posessions David West had tonight, only three were in a basic low post situation.  All the rest involved him cutting back to the free throw line, receiving the ball, looking for open shooters, and if nothing opened up,  driving into the paint against Jefferson, who couldn’t move fast enough to keep up with him.  Peja and Butler were rolling off of curls all night, and though Devin brought back the old Pick-and Roll offense when he was on the floor, there was still a lot more moving around as he drove to get open.
  • Oh, and those weren’t the only good adjustments Byron Scott made.  In the third, instead of having the point guard double the post, he had Peja, Posey and Wright take turns immediately doubling Jefferson when he touched it.  That forced either a longer hook shot than normal, or a wing exit pass that rotated around the perimeter.  Earlier Jefferson could pick his passing target by looking over the smaller guy, but all three of those secondary defenders were long, and made the skip pass across the court impossible.  Result? The rotations were much easier and shots were contested.  Also in the third, after Gomes repeatedly drilled threes, he shifted Peja onto him.  Peja doesn’t roam, and can be burned by fast guys, but that’s not Gomes game.  Peja’s a damn tall fella, and Gomes didn’t have another open three all night.
  • At this point, the Giraffe Calf seems to have lost all confidence in his shot – and really most of his offense.  Wright won’t take open shots and instead keeps driving into the paint and losing the ball or forcing passes.  Byron needs to make it clear to him his handle just isn’t good enough yet to drive into the teeth of the defense.  His own defense tonight was pretty standard for him.  His energy is very high and can key some great defensive series, and when given a clear job, he excels.  When left to his own devices, however he still roams and ball watches way too much.  When his player had the ball, he was great at harassing them and closing out.  When he was given the job of doubling Jefferson, he closed hard and those long arms were hard to ignore.  When he was on the backside of a perimeter rotation, however, he left Carney and Gomes open three times in six posessions for threes.  The potential is still there however.  He’s still our best X-factor – and I hope he starts taking that jumper again.

  • Over the last three weeks, I have done a 180 on Sean Marks.  When he was coming off the bench at the same time as Hilton Armstrong and playing the Power Forward position, he was terrible.  Trying to be West and drain the long two is just not his thing – and it showed.  The last three weeks, however, he’s been coming in at center, and when you put him within ten feet of the basket, good things happen.  Among our big men, he rivals West as our best finisher at the rim, as his ability to catch and explode with strength makes it hard to stop his dunks.  His energy was great, he snagged 4 offensive boards, and had 18 points an a gorgeous block in the fourth.  His early season defense, which was slow, has improved greatly as he’s become more familiar with his teammates.  I know there was some excitement a couple weeks ago when Hilton was able to score a little in the post – but I’d rather have Marks finishing and rebounding than Hilton or Melvin Ely any day.  This little injury string has made it pretty clear our best big man options behind Chandler and West are Marks and Bowen – hands down.
  • All that nice stuff about Marks aside, our MVP of the night was Rasual Butler.  23 points on 15 shots, 8 rebounds, three assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and several aggressive drives right into the teeth of the defense in the fourth.  Telfair and Foye had trouble even bothering him – and Miller didn’t even really try.  His defense was solid as usual as well.
  • Ryan Bowen had 5 fouls in 13 minutes, but I could care less.  Two runouts for layups, a nice assist, a nice block, lots of energetic tips for loose balls, and generally a lot of great effort.  He’s worth two men while he’s out there.
  • West’s Karate Chop in the second was one of his stupid frustration fouls we all know he’s capable of. He felt he got fouled on the play before, Mike Miller was on a fast break, lifted the ball above his head as he went past West, and West chopped at it – with more force than was warranted.  Of course, Miller also managed to trip over his own feet at the same time, so he dropped his hands to catch himself, and West’s swing got him good, right in the back of the neck.  Stupid Foul, West.  You deserved to take the Walk.  The foul is a Flagrant II, so he’ll be evalauted for a suspension.  Wouldn’t be surprised – or particularly upset – if he got one.
  • One good thing did come from West’s banishment.  Antonio Daniels decided he needed to start shooting.  And shoot he did, repeatedly getting to the elbows for jumpers, and once delivering a nice, swooping layup over Jefferson.  His aggressiveness, coupled with Bowen and Butler getting after it, brought the game to within 3 at the half.
  • People are going to kill Peja about his inability to score tonight in a game where he was supposed to be our primary option.  They will also probably kill Byron for leaving him out there for 40 minutes.  I won’t.  There is a reason he had the second best point differential on our team – and that reason was defense.  Like I said earlier, his doubles on Jefferson and defense of Gomes was not only instrumental to pulling this game out, but on offense, his presence on the wing or top of the arc allowed Devin Brown go one-on-one in his forays into the paint no less than seven times.  McHale had clearly told his guys to never help off of Peja – and they didn’t.
  • That, of course, left the Human Pinball in his favorite situation – barreling into the paint at full speed with no one attacking his dribble until he had tucked it like a halfback.  Devin Brown drew 8 free-throws and finished with 14 points on 8 shots.  Very nice.

I hope Jefferson isn’t hurt too badly.  The guy is an offensive beast, and fun to watch.

We get Memphis tomorrow night.  West usually lights those guys up, so it would be nice to have him.  If we don’t?  I think we can still win.

UPDATE: West’s flagrant foul on Mike Miller:

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