The Spurs Beat the Hornets

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Published: October 29, 2009

After the LiveBlog and game were over, I went back and watched the game again, wanting to closely watch Wright and Okafor’s performance, and then determine what caused the blowout.  After seeing it the second time, I actually felt a lot better than I did during the game, because what caused the Hornet’s downfall is eminently correctable.

The Hornets, despite the dearth of points provided by the bench, had a strong enough offensive attack to have won the game.  They shot 50% from the field and 50% from deep.  They only had 10 turnovers, and actually drew two more free throws than the Spurs.(though they hit one less)

What killed the Hornets was their defense, and defense that could not be laid at the feet of the bench.  Yes, Songaila didn’t get back on defense fast enough.  Yes, Bobby Brown was incapable of getting back into a play once his opponent got a step on him.  Yes, Hilton Armstrong couldn’t corral a defense rebound in traffic to save his life.  Still, other than Bobby, those guys were not on the floor during the major 2nd quarter run.  It was the starters.

Now, why would that make me feel better about the game?  Aren’t the starters supposed to be better?  True.  But they have an excuse.   They weren’t playing badly on defense early on.(other than Paul and West failing twice to defend a pick and pop with Bonner appropriately)  But then, early second quarter, there were four miscues on defense in five posessions.  Okafor stepped out twice to contest shots, and West and Wright failed to fill in behind him.(To be expected.  Chandler never stepped OUT to defend.  He stayed home.)  Then Okafor, Wright and Peterson got confused on a defensive rotation, followed by Okafor, West and Brown doing the same.  Faced with that series of mistakes, Byron made a defensive change, and it proved disastrous:

He went zone.

Byron was probably hoping to cover for unfamiliarity in rotations, but the end result was a three point barrage.  Zones give up open outside shots, and the Spurs worked it with style, ending with six open shots, and three offensive rebounds on the next 8 posessions.  The lead stretched to 18, and the Spurs simply executed from then on, refusing to allow the Hornets back in.

So I can live with unfamiliarity being the major issue, especially when you consider that as far as one-on-one defense, Okafor looked very good – and though he registered no blocks, he and Julian Wright made interior shots fairly tough to finish.  Give the guys a few weeks worth of games and practices with Okafor, and I expect it to smooth out, and the perimeter defense to at least become adequate.

Julian Wright

  • Wright’s on the ball defense was predictably excellent.  He was the primary defender on eight drives, and they resulted in two baskets and an assist.
  • Twice in the first quarter, Wright got caught cheating waaaay off his man.  Both times he was all the way down inside the free throw line.  Both resulted in open shots, one found net. 
  • The rest of the game, he didn’t cheat that far off anymore – and was more able to cover.  He did get caught twice in miscommunications with Okafor that I already mentioned.
  • Offensively, Wright performed well when simply reacting.  He did well on three breaks, and knocked down a jumper when he did a simple catch and shoot.  He over-thought it a few times, resulting in a bad jumper, and a botched semi-fast break.
  • In the end, I think it was a good game for him.  He was really active on the boards, and though he didn’t end up with many, he tipped another three to teammates.

The Rest:

  • Paul and West did their usual thing.  West didn’t have much at halftime, but he didn’t get the ball very much with Okafor proving effective in the post.
  • Okafor’s offense was golden.  He missed all his post jumpers and fadeaways, but all but one of those were bailout attempts at the end of the buzzer.  His post moves, however, were nice, effective, and he scored over Duncan, McDyess and Blair with equal facility.
  • Bobby Brown took 12 shots.  All but four were forced.  Peja and Posey combined to get 2 shots while they were on the floor with him.  2 shots.  Total.  Give up the damn ball, Bobby.
  • At times, the Hornets were playing Armstrong with Posey or Armstrong with Songaila as the frontline.  You can guess how well the boards were controlled during those stretches.
  • Armstrong showed me by not getting any turnovers, but rebounding and shooting poorly.  The complete opposite of what I’d predicted.

Next game is Friday against Sacramento.  Let’s see if the boys can bounce back defensively.

UPDATE: Video highlights from the game:

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