The Grizzlies beat the Hornets

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Published: April 3, 2010

With the season winding down, the last two games have made it pretty clear – some of the Hornets are already on vacation.  Chris Paul, Marcus Thornton, and Darren Collison wanted that game.  The rest of the team was there.

For the first half, it was the same problem that the Hornets struggled with all season – atrocious defense.  Two passes for the Grizzlies?  Layup.  Ball reversal?  Alley-oop.  There was no coordination on the defensive end at all.  If a player cut, the guy guarding him usually ended up trailing him – and no big anywhere moved to help.   When a shot did miss, the wing players of the Grizzlies simply flew in and cleaned it up – jumping over or out-muscling their smallish defenders.  The Hornets are undersized, and looked it.

And the transition defense?  I don’t think the idea of all that running was popular.

The game also put on display Emeka Okafor’s worst attributes.  His primary weakness all season long, is a complete and utter lack of aggressive instinct.  The Hornets opened that game trying to get the ball to Okafor so he could try to abuse the rookie Thabeet.  The first posession of the game looked like the Hornets were playing hot potato and no one wanted to shoot.  That’s because the guys with the ball didn’t want to – they were reversing the ball around the perimeter trying to find an angle to get the ball to Okafor – and Okafor wasn’t sealing Thabeet.  In the first five minutes of the game, the Hornets tried going to Okafor 8 times.  He got into position to receive it four times – and on three of them, he passed it back out.  He didn’t try to make a move.  He didn’t try to re-post.  There was no double team.  He just looked over his shoulder at Thabeet, hoped for a cutter, and then tossed it out.  The one time he did shoot, it was a quick spin and a 10-foot jumper off glass.  No aggression.

Observations:

  • Thornton had a brutally bad shooting game from deep. 1-9 on the night.  Despite that, he still put in 19 points, including a baseline drive around Mayo followed by a vicious slam before Thabeet or Arthur could do much more than start their jumps.  Just an explosive move.
  • Paul and Collison were getting to the rim at will – and clanking their layups.  Credit should be given to Thabeet and Memphis in general – they were contesting very well.
  • Aaron Gray is a fine fourth big man.  The Hornets desperately need a third.  Preferably an athletic one that likes to rebound, run, and dunk powerfully.
  • OJ Mayo is a very intelligent basketball player.  I don’t actually think his athleticism makes him stand out that much, but he’s a solid athelete with a great feel for the game.
  • If anything illustrates the way Chris Paul plays, it was the effort he was giving in the fourth quarter tonight.  Even with the team down big, he was being physical as all hell.
  • Rudy Gay is fools gold.  He had about five spectacular plays tonight, that were more than balanced out by a half dozen brain dead plays where he took the easy way out.  7-19 for 20 points, and that’s hardly atypical.  The nature of this summer’s free agent market is there will be disappointed teams who don’t get the big fish.  Gay, as a result, is probably going to get a huge offer.  He’s not going to be worth it.

So the Stumbling on Wins contest ends tonight.  I’ll do the drawing tomorrow and post the winner and answers for all of you to see tomorrow.  If you haven’t made your guesses yet, you’ve got about an hour left to do it.

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