The Mavericks beat the Hornets

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Published: December 15, 2009

The Hornets played some of their worst basketball of the season to fall into an early 21-point hole tonight in Dallas, but clawed back into the game thanks to some unlikely contributions from the likes of James Posey, Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong. In the second half it was Chris Paul putting on a show and leading the troops, but the Mavs proved to be the better team in the end, executing enough to keep the Hornets at arms length.

94-90 the final score. Hornets fall to 10-13.

Defense

The Mavericks came out and got whatever shots they wanted in the first quarter. The only thing the Hornets did well was keep the ball out of Dirk Nowitzki’s hands, but in doing so they seemed to forget about the other four Mavericks on the floor. J.J. Barea got in the lane untouched several times, Erick Dampier got deep under the basket for easy scores more than once, and the Hornets transition defense was non-existent.

It all changed in the second quarter when Posey, Chris Paul and Darren Collison decided to apply some defensive pressure and started forcing the Mavs to turn it over. Really, the only change in the defense was the intensity, which proved contagious and resulted in easy baskets at the other end.

The Hornets kept much of that defensive intensity the rest of the way, making Dallas work a lot harder for their baskets. There were some costly blown rotations in the fourth quarter though, two of them leading to big threes for the Mavs.

Still, it was nice to see the Hornets make some progress on the defensive end. Allowing just 59 points in three quarters is nice work.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul made plenty of big plays and kept the Hornets close in the second half. He played 40 minutes despite showing signs of that ankle bothering him again in the fourth quarter, and finished with 20 points, 16 assists, 5 steals, 4 rebounds and just one turnover. At least three times tonight he had me picking my jaw off the floor after a no-look feed or a sneaky steal. In five games since returning from injury, he’s averaging 15.8 points, 14 assists, 4.8 boards and 3.4 steals.

Having noted all of that, this next sentence might seem a little misplaced: Chris Paul is part of the problem.

I say that because I don’t see him buying into what Jeff Bower and Tim Floyd are trying to do with the offense. We saw some nice progress made towards more ball movement and less pounding when Paul was out injured, and I assumed that would continue when CP came back. Unfortunately though, I’m seeing the offense regress into Paul dribbling most of the shot clock away before launching a contested jumper while his teammates stand and watch.

Of course, there’s no denying Paul’s brilliance, and with the way he’s been shooting this season those contested jumpers aren’t necessarily bad shots. The problem is that the Hornets can only go so far with Chris Paul dominating the basketball. For the Hornets to be a real threat offensively, they need everybody involved, multiple passes on each trip down the floor, not just one guy prodding the defense for 15-20 seconds. That requires too much of Paul and too little of everyone else, including the guys playing defense.

Chris has been responding to the team’s poor performance by playing hard, playing hurt, and getting on his teammates even more so than usual. I’m thinking what would serve him and the team better is to realize that his herculean efforts aren’t adding up to more W’s. A smarter approach is needed.


Bullets to finish this out…

  • Barea and Nowitzki are a nice combo on the pick and roll/pick and fade. Barea can turn that corner and speed toward the basket, while Dirk can’t be given much space when he opens up after the pick. Tough to guard.
  • Not to give too much credit to the opposition, but the Mavs also did a nice job on David West tonight, rarely letting him post up without sending help immediately.
  • Hard to complain about Emeka Okafor’s lack of playing time in the fourth quarter again when Darius Songaila has been playing so well. I’m thinking it might be nice to see Songaila in there for West though so we have that big defensive presence down the stretch.
  • Hilton Armstrong made several nice plays tonight, on both ends of the floor. Most surprising were his nifty moves inside for scores. Not often we see him gather the ball and move his feet like that. I’ll enjoy it for what it was, because it’s unlikely we’ll see another performance like that from Hilton any time soon.
  • From my notes in the third quarter: “6:53 Devin Brown charge on break. But of course.”

Hornets home to face the Pistons on Wednesday.


UPDATE: Mr. Kennedy’s got your post-game Journal report, and here’s the game highlights from NBA.com…

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