The Hornets Beat the Rockets

Published: November 3, 2010

It was a fun and fascinating game to watch tonight as the Hornets defeated the Rockets 107-99 (Box Score) in Houston.  In a game that had Paul exploding for 14 points in the fourth, Jason Smith tearing it up off the bench, and Emeka Okafor dominating the paint defensively, I wanted to talk first and foremost about one guy:  Monty Williams.

That game was a master class in rotations, finding what worked, ignoring egos, and proving to players that he trusted them.  Ariza low on energy and struggling with Kevin Martin?   Play Willie Green, who gave him fits through the second half.  The second unit struggling to start the fourth?  Bower or Scott would have inserted Paul and West immediately.  Monty calls a time out, talks it over, and sends out the second unit to execute – showing his trust – and execute they did.  Off guards struggling to score?  Don’t keep the standard rotation, and cycle players through until you find who is making shots.  Jason Smith playing well, keep him in there extended minutes until he looked exhausted with 4:30 to go in the fourth, then pull him for West.

This team has a lot of options(Thanks, Demps) – and Monty is using essentially a 10-man rotation to make full use of that.  That fresh rotation also helped tonight, as fouls were flying fast and furious.  The Hornets took advantage by attacking, and earning 42 free throws to the Rockets 18.  Game. Set. Match.

Emeka Okafor

Now that I’ve glowed about Monty, I will once again skip over two other deserving players in Paul and Smith and go to my next key of the game:  Emeka Okafor.  Every once in a while, you see Emeka play like he did tonight.  He was tough, physical, helping on penetration, making Yao work for every shot, and tipping sure rebounds for the other team out of their hands, creating loose balls.  He had a nice 15, 10 and 5, but his impact was much more than that.  He even led a fast break down the floor twice.  That’s right – he outsprinted everyone.

Jason Smith

Smith had me cackling with glee tonight.  Every jumper he took he stepped into.  In fact – that may be more of a comment about the Rockets than Smith, because he should have never had that much room, but all of his jumpers were great shots.  No sideways fades, no rushed leaners.  It’s what I’ve been wanting from him since the pre-season ended. He also ripped down 9 rebounds as his hustle paid off big against the smaller rebounders on the Rockets team.  Songaila could hit shots like that last year, but Jason Smith is so much better than him it’s silly.  14 points on 8 shots.  9 rebounds, 3 offensive, 1 assist, 2 fouls.

Chris Paul

And last we get to Paul, who had a ho-hum explosion at the end of the game, hitting multiple tough shots, a back-breaking three, and generating with Willie Green the key defensive play of the game as he forced Kevin Martin to the sideline, drew an offensive foul, and that triggered two quick technicals from Aaron Brooks.  The only thing that took the shine off the game tonight was when he came up gimpy after snagging a rebound with 30 seconds left, and spent the rest of the game limping and massaging the same leg he had surgery on last year.  I don’t even like to think about it, so lets move on.(Update:  CP3 tweeted after the game that he just had a cramp)

Other Observations

  • Okafor, West and Smith made Scola’s life a nightmare tonight.  He still grabbed a lot of rebounds, but there is something else about Scola that no one should ever forget:  He’s an awful, awful defender.  Smith’s open shots?  Scola was guarding him.  West’s early scoring spree?  Scola was guarding him.  In fact, every time Scola was called for a foul, it wasn’t good for us, because Chuck Hayes and Jordan Hill actually played defense and showed energy, forcing West out of his comfort zone.
  • Budinger comes off curls incredibly well.  If his shot was falling from deep tonight, it would have been a different game.
  • In any other game, Belinelli would have been a key player up top.  He hit a huge floater during crunch time, and was knocking down his open threes in transition.  When he’s hitting those shots, he’s pretty effective.
  • Thornton had a rough game.  He forced some shots off curls(not really his strong suit), and had trouble getting to the cup and finishing.  He did, of course, drill a gorgeous layup in traffic on a hard-charging baseline cut, but it was a game to forget for him.
  • The same could be said for Bayless in the first half.  Three missed wide open threes.  Several out of control drives that gained nothing.  The second half he was better, playing more under control, but offensively he’s still a mess.  Defensively, he was solid as usual.
  • Clyde Drexler had the perfect description of Mbenga during the game.  “He goes hard after it, but he fights the ball.”  Mbenga is strong and challenges shots, but if he touches the ball, things aren’t going to end well.
  • I’m not sure what to think about Ariza.  He had some nice defensive moments, but a lot of the game he seemed disinterested.  That was a little disappointing.
  • Willie Green’s defense on Kevin Martin changed the game.  He stopped the fouls for free throws, and forced Martin to take shots under pressure.  Sure, Martin broke free for a couple open shots, but in general, Green did a stellar job on him.

So that’s it.  The Hornets are 4-0.  Heat are up next on Friday.   Gird your loins for battle.

Yeah, that’s right.  I said loins.


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