The Hornets beat the Heat
That was enjoyableÂ as the Hornets beat a badly depleted Heat team 90-76.(Box Score)Â For most of the game, the Hornets held a comfortable lead – except for the stretch where Bosh got hot and put the Heat on his back.Â It still bugs me that people dismiss him.Â The dude is an efficient scorer.
The game itself highlighted one inescapable fact:Â The Hornets need to work on beating a zone defense.Â Now, I’m not going to claim the Hornets haven’t worked on beating a zone defense . . .Â but that’s what it looked like to me.Â There was no movement, no attacking, and the only penetration was from Paul – who would draw in three defenders, kick it out, and get a miss.Â Something for Monty to chew on, because the Hornets couldn’t score at all against it.
Due to the Heat’s short rotation and the Hornets trying to figure out their standard rotation for the season, the second quarter had a freakishly odd set of matchups.Â At one point, the Hornets were running a very small Gray-Stojakovic-Pondexter-Thornton-Green against a very tall Ilgauskas-Howard-Haslem-James Jones-Hasbrouk.Â It didn’t result in many points for either side, but it did have some entertaining moments as Pondexter and Peja tried hard, but were tossed around like ragdolls by Haslem – and then hit shots over him from the perimeter.
Cookies had a nice night.(maybeÂ that nicknameÂ does work)Â His outside stroke was on, and when they started closing out on him, he had some solid drives and a couple nice escape dribbles for an open look.Â He was mobile around the perimeter too, frequently sliding along the edge to give Paul an outlet whenever the defense collapsed.Â Defensively, he was active, if not tremendously speedy.Â Still, I liked what he gave on that end.Â I particularly enjoyed the way he handled the ball when bringing it up the floor.Â His head was up, and he was probing for the right pass to make.Â Though that didn’t result in much this game, it’s not something most of the guards on this team do. 19 points on 10 shots, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a single turnover.
I’ll also admit, a couple times I thought “damn, Peja’s really active!”Â Then I realized it was Marco.
You could focus on the negative with Jason.Â Bosh made him look like a chump, he’s not tremendously strong or agile, and balls routinely bounced right off his open hands.Â That said, the guy was battling hard every minute of the game and took only good shots.Â For someone with no history of rebounding, he was in the mix on every loose ball, he set picks and moved to the open spots, and generally looked like a taller, more capable version of Songaila.Â I can dig that.Â 13 points on 8 shots, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 1 block for Jason.
Green wasn’t a world beater on offense, but he did his job as a backup point guard, getting the ball to the right guys to start the offense, and looking for the open spots on the perimeter.Â It was defensively where I particularly liked what he gave to the team.Â Monty had him pressing the entire time he was on the floor, and he showed no sign of tiring or being unable to recover when he did get beat by being overly aggressive.Â He also willingly gave up his body to take a charge on the 300 pound Dexter Pittman with 2 minutes left in the game and the outcome decided.Â That’s the kind of defensive mentality we need. 10 points on 8 shots, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and zero turnovers for Willie in twenty minutes.
- CP wasn’t really looking for his offense for most of the game.Â Beverly was hounding him, and he seemed content to try to set up the rest of the team for all but a brief stretch in the third.Â His shotÂ didn’t fall much either, but the shots he was taking were all good ones.Â When the season starts, I do hope he starts off games more aggressively than he did last year.Â He’s got to be a threat all game long.
- Aaron Gray went to the floor to grab a loose ball in the fourth, ripping it away from Udonis Haslem.Â That’s not something you can say very often about a 7-2, 300 pound center.Â He too hasÂ the right mentality.
- I really like Patrick Beverly of the Heat.Â Always have.Â He’s got blazing speed and impressive handle.Â Can’t shoot yet, but he really puts pressure on a defense and opposing ballhandlers with constant movement.
- Marcus Thornton is pressing.Â Twice, he tried to explode on a break before he even had the ball under control, resulting in turnovers.Â Completely uncharacteristic of him.Â He’s also so eager to make something happen, he’s holding the ball a little too long.Â He was still the first guard off the bench after tha half, but he didn’t get a minute in the fourth quarter.Â He’ll figure it out.
- Trevor Ariza opened the game playing tough, focused defense.Â Then he got bored and stopped.Â I’m not a fan of the way he massages the ball looking for a drive before making a decision or passing, either.Â Still, when he was focused in the first quarter he showed something the Hornets haven’t had in years – a defender capable of helping in the paint on drives yet still able to make it out on the wing shooters if a kickout occurs.Â That helps the weak-side of a defense so, so much.
- Okafor did his usual Okafor thing.Â Oh, other than going 9-11 on free throws.Â Where did that come from?Â Sometimes, I wish he was a little lighter on his feet and didn’t need to gather himself before jumping.Â It lets opposing players bother his shots or hack him, turning surefire dunks into foul shots.
- Pops looked completely overmatched.
- Pondexter had a really rough start, making mistakes, and blowing a breakaway dunk.Â He didn’t let it bother him, though, and he ended with an okay showing despite being forced to guard 4’s a lot of the game.
The next game is Friday in Indiana.Â Have a good night.