The Hornets beat the Nuggets

Published: December 19, 2009

In a repetition of the past few games, the Hornets let a big defecit grow in the second, and then stormed back in the third and fourth behind a furiously scoring star.  Tonight it was enough as Paul(and some Peja) propelled the team over the Nuggets. There was a lot of interesting things in this game, but I think we need to focus on two primary things:  the gameplan and Chris Paul.

Chris Paul

After controlling the game with passing in the first half, Chris Paul unleashed the demon in the second.  It was the first game he looked explosive since he came back from injury, and  there was also a much lower percentage of pull up jumpers from deep, as he went to the basket on those hard-charging drives we’ve all fallen in love with.  2 points at the half, he ended with 30 points on 20 shots, 19 assists, 9 rebounds, 1 steal and 4 turnovers.

When JR was going nuts in the fourth, I also noticed him wave Peja off to cover Lawson, and twice took JR instead.  On the first play, Paul forced JR into a quick pass, and on the second, he denied a ball pass to JR from Carmelo.   Carmelo, single covered as a result of a change in the gameplan I talk about below, shifted into Hero mode, trying to take the game over – and JR Smith, who had been playing an amazing game – became mostly a bystander.

Tonight too, you got to hear more of Paul’s razor sharp tongue, and I got to say, nobody is immune to it.  I heard him hollering at West last game, and tonight Emeka Okafor rolled to the basket, caught a bullet pass from Paul, jumped up to dunk and was fouled hard enough the ball slipped and he missed the dunk.  Paul pointed at him and bellowed “Damn!  Put that DOWN.”  Okafor just nodded.  Tough crowd.

The Gameplan

While it’s fairly obvious now that the offense isn’t going to change tremendously under Bower and Floyd, that is only half the gameplan, and defensively there are some very major differences between the Hornets under Scott and under Bower.  First, the way the Hornets defended Carmelo Anthony tonight was brilliant.  Byron always put Peja on Carmelo.  Even if Peja was getting smoked, he was still going to guard Carmelo.  Bower didn’t even try.  He cross-matched Devin Brown on him with instructions to be physical and had Chris Paul double/cheat over every time Carmelo caught the ball.  When Anthony Carter was in the game, it was a great decision, as Carter was not a threat from the outside, and Paul could usually close on him quickly enough to recover if the ball did swing his way, therefore neutralizing Carmelo pretty effectively.  When Lawson was on the floor,  however, it cut the other way.  Lawson is, and was, deadeye from long range, and even when Paul closed, he would penetrate and create havoc  with ease.  Late in the fourth, the Hornets adjusted to Lawson’s greater threat, leaving Paul home on Lawson(or JR), and thus letting Carmelo get it going a little.

Seeing the way the Hornets treated Carmelo tonight, Dirk the other night, and even Al Jefferson in Minnesota, it appears that under Bower the focus will be to stop scoring forwards and big men as much as possible, and to let the other teams guards try and beat you.  It’ll be interesting to see if that philosophy continues, and how effective it can be.

Rookie Report

Ooof.  Not a good night for Thornton and Collison.   For the second game Collison struggled when full court pressure was applied, and he struggled getting into the paint and making the right decision.  Thornton’s defense was actually pretty solid, but his shot wasn’t falling, and twice dribbled himself into trouble.  Still, it’s why they are rookies, and Devin Brown and someone named Chris Paul were playing pretty well so it mattered less than it normally would.

Other Observations

  • Peja Stojakovic has had an incredible stretch of play recently.  Tonight he was sticking everything.  Spot up threes, shots off long curls, flashes to the high post to catch and shoot – even several one-dribble escapes from the corner followed by baseline leaners.  He had some truly big shots in the fourth.
  • I alluded to it above, but JR Smith played the most intelligent game I’ve ever seen from him.  He’s had bigger scoring  games where his 3-point shot has been falling, but tonight he played smart and determined.  His ballhandling was great, and his drives to the hoop were a thing of beauty.  It warmed my heart a little to see him showing so much.
  • Posey is rounding into form, continuing a string of four or five solid games.  Tonight, he was the only guy who could handle Nene at all, willingly mixing it up with the much larger Denver center after Nene took turns abusing Okafor, West, and Songaila.  There were some truly nasty battles between those two under the basket, and most went unnoticed because the ball never went there.
  • Okafor couldn’t stop Nene, but his help defense on driving guards was, as usual, stellar.(5 blocks!)   He did have some gorgeous rolls to the hoop on pick and rolls, too.

Next game is Sunday against the Raptors.  Have a good night.

UPDATE: Mr. Kennedy has a post-game Journal report, and delivers lots of video:

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