The Rockets beat the Hornets

Published: December 30, 2009

That game was both exhilarating and crushing at the same time.  As Mark said in the comments, in the third, the Hornets looked like the Hornets of two years ago, forcing turnovers and getting easy buckets.  Paul got a triple double, West went for 44, 12 and 4 assists, Emeka Okafor, despite middling rebounding numbers, had a huge effect in the paint, snuffing 5 shots and changing multiple others.  The only thing keeping the rockets in the game was blistering hot perimeter shooting by Battier and Aaron Brooks.

In fact, it was Okafor fouling out on a smooth fake by Carl Landry that decided this game.  He sat down and the easy looks he was snuffing inside suddenly became easy, with two inside shots and a crushing dunk by Ariza, who had been turned away all night.

So the Hornets fall on the road again.  Wow, I’m tired of saying that.

David West

West opened the game a little lackadaisical, letting rebounds he could snag go, and saving his energy for attacking Luis Scola.  But as Scola was unable to stop him, suddenly West’s energy began picking up.  He went harder after boards,  attacked Scola when he got in the paint, and provided some decent help defense in the paint.  The only thing he didn’t do well was track Scola out to mid-range.

It was great to see that level of effort from him – at this point the fact he used to play on a similar level had started to fade.  No – not the scoring, even at his best he was rarely that crazy, but he used to give good solid effort both offensively and defensively.  I missed that, and when he was feeling his stroke so much in the third that he started taking three pointers, I was giggling with glee.

Oh – and you know how he boxes in the off-season?  Good thing he does, because Scola caught him with a mean left hook right. (Scola immediately grimaced and it was clear he didn’t mean to do it, but it was a damn good crack across the Jaw)

The Wings

The inability of the Hornet’s wings to penetrate is killing this team offensively.  When the ball swings to the perimeter, the other team closes out, and if a shot isn’t going up immediately, they back off, shading towards Paul or West.  They know that even if Peja or Posey or Brown drive, there isn’t any real danger, they can recover.

Posey did nothing tonight to warrant his playing time.   Peja was at least a decoy on a lot of offensive sets, but he still missed every shot and too often slapped at the ball as it went past him rather than really helping defensively.  Brown hit a big shot and successfully resisted committing a charge on a fast break.

Rookie Report

Collison looked great in the first half, aggressively pushing towards the basket and running every chance he got.  In the second half, the game slowed down, and he looked a bit lost at times.  Still, he gave a nice 16 minutes.

Thornton defended gamely for his nine minutes, and filled the lane on a few breaks, but really did nothing else – as his box score line will attest.

Other Observations

  • Paul had some spectacular defensive plays tonight, including his block/strip of Landry as the big man went in for a dunk.  Still, there’s something missing offensively.  He’s not getting to the rim with the same ease.  Part of that is because his wings demand little attention, but some of that is he’s just not as explosive.  How much of that is the ankle?  I don’t know.
  • The Hornets had a fast, small-ball lineup out there for part of the game, with Collison, Thornton, Wright, Posey and Songaila running.  I had one note about this time:  “They look good, but man, Posey does not fit into this group at all.  Okafor would fit.”
  • I thought the Hornets did a pretty good job on Brooks, really.  He was just hitting his threes.  Good to see the Hornets keep a fast guard out of the paint – but it would be nice to see them do that AND keep one from scoring.
  • With tonight’s loss, the Hornets fall to fifth place in the Southwest division.  Yes, that’s right, behind the Memphis Grizzlies.  I don’t even know what to say.

Next game is tomorrow night against Miami.   At least it’s at home, so the team has a chance to win.

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