The Knicks beat the Hornets

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Published: December 12, 2009

.500 will have to wait.

After delivering great offense and decent defense before halftime, the Hornets got blitzed in the second half tonight, falling to the visiting Knicks, 113-96 (boxscore). It looked like we were in for another tight finish midway through the fourth quarter after James Posey scored a layup to put the Hornets ahead by one with 4:56 left, but that would be the last basket New Orleans would score as the Knicks finished it it out with an 18-0 run.

Decent Defense

All 18 of those late points by the Knicks came from behind the three-point line, two of them banking in and most coming from well beyond the arc. I can recall just two of those shots being good open looks. So I can’t be too hard on the Hornets defense for losing this game.

My main intention watching the game was to keep a close eye on the Hornets D, trying to see who might not be pulling their weight. Overall though, I don’t think it was a bad effort at that end of the floor. The worst defensive stretch the Hornets had was probably the start of the fourth quarter, when they let David Lee score easy baskets twice in succession off the same pick and roll, and then let Al Harrington get into the lane a couple of times with little resistance.

Offense Deteriorates

The offensive end was where the Hornets really fell apart. Not an easy task to match 18 points in five minutes by the Knicks, but to go scoreless is inexcusable. Once again the offense bogged down and guys tried to do too much themselves.

It was a huge contrast to the first half, when New Orleans scored a season-high 62 points as Chris Paul and Darren Collison picked apart the Kincks D to the tune of 15 combined assists. Emeka Okafor was the go-to guy early, as he got deep in the paint against David Lee several times and was rewarded with nice feeds for easy buckets.

In the second quarter, the Knicks came with a zone defense for the first four minutes and saw it get carved up be some beautiful penetration by Collison and some nice cuts and fades by the likes of Songaila and West. Later we saw Peja Stojakovic heat up and the Hornets took advantage of the Knicks trying to slow him by running some nice misdirection plays.

But the second half was a much different story. To their credit, the Knicks came out with a lot more energy after the break, having decided not to sleepwalk through the entire game. They also started switching on every ball screen, and had the personnel to make that work. The Hornets answer was to go away from what was working in the first half, instead trying to create a lot more off the dribble and in isolation plays.

Marcus Thornton provided a spark early in the fourth quarter, but got carried away and took all kinds of ill-advised shots down the stretch. That seemed to be contagious as Paul, West and Stojakovic also started throwing up contested shots after few attempts to get the ball moving.

Matching Up

Jeff Bower again opted to finish out the game with a small lineup, keeping Emeka Okafor on the bench for the final 16+ minutes and rolling with a unit of Paul, Thornton, Posey, Peja and Songaila for a significant stretch in the fourth. After the game, Bower talked the need to match up with the players Mike D’Antoni had on the floor, and especially trying to combat the versatility of Al Harrington, who was scoring inside and out.

That’s all well and good, and the smaller lineup didn’t really hurt until the Knicks started banging those late threes, but I think it might be time for the Hornets to stop trying to match up against the other team and start making the other team match up to them. Fortune usually favors the aggressor in basketball, and the Hornets haven’t been the aggressor for a while now.

Mediocrity

As Hornets radio voice Joe Block noted during the game, the Hornets have yet to win a game by double figures since the coaching change, and the team has had just one double-figure win all season. Combining those facts with the results of these last three games — close wins over the Kings and T’Wolves and tonight’s loss to the Knicks — it’s become apparent that the Hornets are a very mediocre team right now. I’m a little nervous about what might happen against the 16-7 Mavericks in Dallas on Monday.

Chris Paul hurting?

Since he came back from injury, he’s been passing up shots he usually takes and making a bunch of mistakes we usually don’t see from him. Apparently he also landed a little awkwardly at some point during the second half and came up hobbling a bit. When asked about it post-game, he said the ankle was fine.


Bullets to finish…

  • Jared Jeffries impressed me tonight. He frustrated David West while guarding him in the post, and also did a solid job playing D out high when he switched. He didn’t have much to show for his efforts in the boxscore, except for the highest plus-minus of the game at +28.
  • Sat near a radio guy calling the game for the Knicks. He was loud, biased and animated for much of the night, keeping me very entertained. I especially liked when he remarked “Derrick Stafford is out of control!” after Al Harrington was whistled for an obvious carry.
  • I spoke briefly with Morris Peterson in the locker room before the game and asked what the deal was with the injury rumors. He said he recently got his knee drained and has been hampered by a bad left ankle all season, but he’s ready to go when his number is called.
  • In case you haven’t, Ike Diogu has been shut down for the season, due to undergo surgery on the left knee soon.

UPDATE: NBA.com highlights from the game…

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