The Hornets beat the Wizards

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Published: March 12, 2009

The Hornets bounced back from Monday’s loss in Atlanta by beating the Wizards in D.C. tonight, 109-98. Since the New Orleans bench has been the hot topic of conversation recently, I’ll start out talking about the reserves in this one.

Byron did shake things up some. He subbed out three starters in the first quarter: Posey for Wright, Bowen for West, Brown for Butler. Our first unit got off to a slow, sluggish start at both ends of the floor, resulting in a 28-22 Wizards lead heading into the second. West was taken out with 3:27 left in the first, then returned less than two minutes into the second. Chris Paul sat out the first half of Q2 as usual, as did Tyson Chandler, and we didn’t fare too badly during that stretch. I was happy with the defensive effort; we allowed the Wizards 10 points on just 4-of-12 shooting before all our starters were back on the floor. The problem was again the offense, as turnovers, rejections and plain ineptitude resulted in our guys scoring only 6 points on 2-of-5 shooting in the same stretch.

Of course Chris Paul and our other big guns then tore the Wizards a new one for the rest of the second quarter and all through the third. The 40 points we scored in Q3 were a season high, and we led 85-68 entering the final frame. Gotta be safe to roll with five bench guys when you have a 17-point lead, right? Wrong. The Wizards ripped off an 11-2 run in the first three minutes of the fourth, cutting their defecit to just eight. Byron called timeout, the starters came back in and after a few minutes of struggle to regain momentum they closed it out strong.

The five-man reserve unit that almost threw the game away consisted of Daniels, Brown, Posey, Bowen and Armstrong. I can’t criticize them too much individually for what happend at the start of the fourth though. It looked like they were out there playing some kind of half-assed zone defense, which resulted in nobody following cutters or boxing out for the defensive boards. As a result, the Wizards got second chances and point blank looks. I’m guessing that was one of the “junk defenses” Byron spoke about before the game, the idea being to mix it up a bit and keep Washington on their toes, try to generate offense from the bench defense. Unfortunately, the guys we had out there trying to play that kind of defense need a lot more experience playing it to be effective. And they really need to work on their communication, because nobody seemed to know their role.

Even though his efforts failed tonight, I hope to see Byron experimenting with the bench some more in the coming weeks. I don’t think there’s one good solution that he’s going to hit on. He just needs to adjust game by game depending on what the opposition is doing (not his strength, I know), and ensure that everyone knows their role in whatever offense and defense we decide to run.

Moving on to some bullets…

  • Chris Paul’s final line: 39 minutes, 30 points (11-of-16 FGs), 13 assists, 10 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 turnovers. Like every other Hornet, he struggled out of the gate, but really took the game by the scruff when he came off the bench in Q2. Gerry V on the radio broadcast made a good point about how Paul was waiting and reacting to the defense early instead of attacking and making the Wizards react to him. He started coming with that aggressiveness after his breather and never looked back. I’d love to see our team as a whole be more assertive like that, forcing the defense to make a mistake instead of waiting for it. We’d surely see less forced shots late in the 24.
  • I thought Rasual Butler was finally snapping out of his hot streak when he dropped just 2-of-8 shots in the first half, but then he hit 5-of-10 in the second, including a bunch of big three-balls. Still not a great shooting night for him overall, but it’s great to see how he can right ship so quickly these days, rather than sinking back into a slump like the Rasual of old. Sual was the primary defender on Caron Butler for most of the game, too, and he made life tough for his former teammate. Caron would finish with 23 points, but he needed 22 shots to do it.
  • Rasual Butler’s scoring totals tracking back to the Laker game in February: 21, 18, 20, 18, 16, 22, 17, 7, 12, 21, 31. And he’s shooting 48.4 percent from the field in that stretch, 46.9 percent from three. And still, nobody’s talking about him. Well, except for Hornets Hype. And At The Hive. And us here at the 247. Any day now, a non-Hornets blog might mention him.
  • Our interior D was key tonight. During that big run spanning the middle quarters, we did a great job limiting the Wizards to one jump shot per trip. Chandler’s presence seemed to deter opposing drives. When the Wiz did venture in there, TC was either rejecting/altering the shot or helping well enough to force the ball back out to the perimeter. We didn’t rush out on their shooters either, perhaps keeping in mind that Washington is the second-worst three-point shooting team in the league. Good game plan, well executed by the starters after that sluggish start.
  • How about Chris Paul after the game, when Jordy Hultberg asked him about his triple double? Rather than talk about himself, CP immediately ran with Jordy’s mention of Tyson (whose late block became Paul’s tenth rebound), noting how the Hornets are 7-1 since the big man came back from injury.
  • Nice game from Posey. He gave us 15 points (5-of-8 FGs), 6 boards, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers. I didn’t notice him getting beat badly on defense either, which has been my main complaint about him lately. That said, the Wizards have only two real offensive threats (Jamison and Butler), and I can’t recall Posey guarding either of them for any significant stretch.
  • Posey got to play the entire fourth quarter, taking Julian Wright’s place with the starters. Only 17 minutes of PT for JuJu, resulting in 4 points (2-of-4 FGs), 5 boards and 2 turnovers. Byron wasn’t happy when he turned it over late in Q2 on an ill-advised lob attempt to Chandler. Looked like he had a lane there but he passed it up. All that aside, Wright’s recent performances have restored my hopes for him a little bit. He definitely needs a longer leash and court time with the starters, because that’s the only way he’s at all effective.
  • Antawn Jamison started the game on fire but cooled off considerably. Credit should go to D-West who keep a good eye on him after the first quarter. West would finish with 13 points (6-of-12 FGs), 9 boards and 4 assists. Oh, and he got called for another defensive 3-second violation. That’s seven of those for him in the last ten games.
  • Numbers: Too many turnovers for the Hornets at 14. We started out with too few free-throw attempts, but finished up 19-of-26 from the line. We had a 45-36 edge on the boards, a 50-38 advantage in points in the paint, led 17-12 on the break, and we knocked down 10-of-24 from deep.

Next up, the Hornets are off to Milwaukee to meet the Bucks on Friday, then it’s the Bulls in Chicago a day later. Leaving you with some bonus good news: the Jazz had their streak snapped in Atlanta tonight. That puts us back above Utah in the standings.

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