Shorthanded Hornets fall to red hot Bulls

Published: March 7, 2011

Conventional wisdom said that this game would be a blowout. The Bulls came in as one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of 16 of their last 17 at home and fresh off a huge victory at Miami. Meanwhile, the Hornets came into tonight down two starters, one of which just happened to be the heart and soul of the team, Chris Paul. The Hornets, however, put up a fight for 48 minutes before falling to the Bulls 85-77, in a game that was even closer than the final score indicated.

The Hornets kept the game tight with a swarming defense that had Chicago guessing all night long. At times they played man, other times it was zone, and then they would throw Chicago off by showing them a hybrid of the two. As a result, the Bulls shot just 38% from the field and only 4 of 20 from three. Derrick Rose did score 24 points, but it took him 21 shots to do so, and the small forward duo of Kyle Korver and Luol Deng were virtually nonexistent, going 4-20 from the field (1-9 from three).

Unfortunately for the Hornets, the Chicago defense was impressive as well and the difference was that New Orleans simply couldn’t execute down the stretch, as Chicago finished the game on an 8-0 run. Marco Belinelli led the Hornets in scoring in the first half, and finished the game with 17, but he missed an open three-pointer with 2:34 left that could have given the Hornets the lead. The next few possessions were head scratchers, as David West tee’d up a corner three that caught nothing but air, which was followed by his attempt to ally-oop a pass to Okafor (which led to a turnover) and then some isolation plays run for Willie Green.

This was where the Hornets missed CP3 the most, as Chicago had someone to go to in the key stretch, while the Hornets simply did not. With Chris Paul out, David West is by far and away the go to guy for this team, but tonight was just not his night, as he went 4-17 against the longer and more athletic Joakim Noah. It is what it is- this is a bad matchup for the Hornets when they are healthy, and it is that much worse when they are without their superstar. Regardless of the result, however, you simply have to applaud these guys effort. Sometimes you are more proud of a team after a defeat than you are after a victory, and I know that a game like this makes me feel more optimistic about the Hornets chances in the playoffs than a win over some bottom feeder would.

Other Notes and Observations:

– I asked fans via Twitter what Jack would have to do tonight in order for the Hornets to walk out with a victory. Darius Beard told me he would need 20 and 10. I told Darius that I think the 20 is possible, but I don’t see the 10, and that rang true tonight. Jack can score the basketball, and when he is playing the 2 or PG in short stretches, that is fine. If he is your starter, however, you better have another playmaker or you will see what you saw tonight. Jack: 43 minutes, 5 turnovers, 3 assists. Hornets as a TEAM had 10 assists, which is right at CP3’s individual average.

– I know people will be mad at the fact that Willie Green took 13 shots, but as sad as it is to say, he and Jack were the only ones out there who could create their own offense against this Bulls team. Q-Pon had one nice drive early and Marco did well spotting up and coming off screens, but he couldn’t create for himself. And as for David West…..

– The rumors are that David West might be interested in going to New Jersey, but if he were smart he would stay out West where he would only have to see Noah twice a year. That guy is a matchup nightmare for D. West. I thought a healthy Kenyon Martin gave West fits, but Noah does everything Martin did plus he is much longer. West got him twice on an up and under, but other than that Noah simply shut him down and forced him further away from the bucket on every possession. West finished 4 of 17 for just 11 points in a building that he has struggled in his whole career.

– Marco Belinelli had 9 rebounds. Not much to say other than… Marco Belinelli had 9 rebounds.

– Okafor and West combined for 9 blocks. Unfortunately most of those blocks ended up back in the hands of the Bulls or went out of bounds. I believe there should be a separate category for blocks, because what does it matter if the team just gets the ball back? It would be like counting deflections. No, you just count steals because the ball changes possession. A deflection that goes out of bounds is one thing, but a steal that leads to a fast break opportunity is another. Same should hold true for blocks. Tied at 77, the Hornets got a big block on D Rose, but it fell right into Noah’s arms and he got a bucket plus the foul. How is this a positive play for the Hornets? Just my progressive stat rant.

– Can we call Quincy Pondexter- Keiser Soze? He works with a crew of guys, people say that he is out there, yet there seems to be no real tangible proof that he exists. The guy comes in game after game and seems to have the sole mission of making the stat guys’ job as easy as possible. No blocks, no steals, no turnovers. Gets 3 standard defensive rebounds, an assist and two points. Perhaps the greatest trick Q-Pon ever played was convincing the opposing team that he didn’t exist.

– Not bitter at all about the loss, just speaking objectively, but I would be shocked if the Bulls got out of the second round. I know they are the hot team to pick right now and everyone is falling in love, but that team is too easy to defend and good teams will get Noah in foul trouble. They play hard night in and night out, but come playoff time, so does everybody, and that is when talent factors into the equation. The Bulls get the most out of their talent, and that is a compliment, but I would bet heavy against them moving on past the Elite Eight.

– Hornets return home on Wednesday and then have three days off before welcoming Marcus back on Sunday.


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