Hornets End a Fantastic Season With a Loss to the Lakers

Published: April 28, 2011

The Hornets season ended today in uninspiring fashion, as they fell apart early in the fourth quarter yet again against the Lakers, losing 98-80. The loss ended hope of extending what can only be described as a successful season. The crowd showed their appreciated with a late game chant of “Thank You Hornets”, well after the game was out of hand.

Heading into this year it was expected that Chris Paul would leave, and that the Hornets would miss the playoffs. Once they got in it was expected that they would be just a cake-walk for the reigning champions.

Instead we got to see a full season of Chris Paul, who proved that his knee injury is not as hobbling as many thought it would be. We witnessed a Hornets late season push to secure a postseason spot despite the presence of their leading scorer. Then we got to see the team take the Hornets to six games, which were all competitive for the majority.

Halfway through the season there was more for Hornets-Nation to get down about. We faced an attendance problem that threatened the future of the team, along with an unprecedented ownership situation that saw the team sold to the NBA. We heard there were offers from billionaires to move the team as well. Fun stuff, right?

We got together and beat the attendance mandate, showing the true grit and determination of New Orleans. We made it clear to the NBA that we can and will support a quality franchise, and they took notice, turning down offers to move the team. We proved to potential local owners (*CoughCHOUESTBUYTHETEAMALREADY*) that this is a viable NBA market with a business community willing and able to financially support the team.

Overall this season was a great success, and the foundation has been laid for a team that could actually contend as soon as next year. If you look at what happened this season and see anything but success, you weren’t paying attention the whole time.

Before we get started I just want to thank you all for being part of the season with us here at Hornets247. From watch parties to summer league and everything in between, we have loved every second of it. Over the summer we are going to upgrade tons of stuff, including the forum, content management, and more, and boy are you going to be impressed. I know this because our suggestions will come directly from you.

For now, though, let’s talk about the game.

Let’s start the recap with a little bit about Chris Paul, who will probably receive some flack from the haters for “Lebron-ing” it. Early on he wasn’t pressing too much and only wound up taking two shots in the half. The reason? LA was all over his grill, double teaming nearly ever possession, and at the very least leaving a help defender close.

With his teammates not hitting much and unable to create anything except mostly poor shots for themselves, Paul was left with the choice of beating double teams and trying to find tiny openings to shoot, or passing to teammates. He chose the latter, and I can’t blame him. I firmly believe that if the game had been close late, he would have had the energy to find those seams and get those shots. He can’t win the entire game by himself, but he can win the the last six minutes. Unfortunately, he never got the chance to show us.

The Game

Early in the first quarter the Lakers were just pounding it inside, feeding Gasol and Bynum repeatedly in an effort to exploit what should have been their biggest advantage all series. Again Pau just couldn’t find a bucket. It’s strange seeing a guy I previously thought of as the best power forward in the league just completely out of his element against opponents that he should dominate.

Bynum on the other hand did everything LA asked of him. He was 6-9 with 12 points 7 boards and a block with 10 minutes left to go in the first half. Fortunately for the Hornets, Okafor had decided a few minutes before that he had seen enough. He got physical, bodying up Bynum with more intensity than I’ve seen from him all series, and the result was an uptick in the Hornets energy both on and off the court. Bynum got frustrated, committed a dumb foul, and was largely ineffective the following four minutes.

When Gasol replaced Bynum, Okafor continued his relentless defense, keeping a hand in his face and pushing him out of the paint before he fully received the ball. That’s something that it would have been nice to see in games two, three, and five. It might have had something to do with the game being seemingly less high pitched in the first half (there were only 18).

Despite Okafor’s efforts inside, and the team’s success in stopping the Lakers normally potent offense, the Hornets still trailed 40-34 at the half. Too many times the ball was left in the hands of a Marco Belinelli or a Trevor Ariza with six or seven seconds left on the shot clock, and nothing going on. Chris Paul was relatively invisible as the Lakers regularly double teamed him. Regardless, he could have done more, but seemingly chose not to.

Paul came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, but the relentless double teams continued to cause trouble for him. Making matters even more difficult, Emeka Okafor picked up his third and fourth fouls early in the third quarter and had to head to the bench. That was big, as Pau Gasol had started finding his groove against the much smaller Landry. Gray replaced Okafor inside, but when Emeka is playing well Gray can’t replace his production on either end.

With eighteen minutes to go in the game and a timeout on the floor, the Hornets trailed 52-42, and the crowd had been noticeably silenced. Coming out of the timeout the fans were brought to their feet, but the Hornets offense was again out of sync. In a long series against a solid defensive team, it’s hard to create offense time and time again when your scheme is almost entirely based around one guy creating for everyone else, especially if guys aren’t hitting their open threes, and at that point the team was 0-6.

Just as things were looking bleak, Willie Green decided to show up and hit a few big shots to keep things in it, but the frontcourt of Jason Smith and DJ Mbenga was too much for the Hornets defense to overcome. The duo played the Lakers to a draw for the closing four minutes of the third quarter thanks to the Hornets offense kicking it up a notch, yet in the fourth quarter LA’s bigs just did what they wanted. Before Monty subbed the two out, it was a 17 point Laker lead, and the game was essentially over.

It’s not that Smith or Mbenga played poorly, in fact both had good moments, and overall they really were pretty decent. The problem is, the Hornets needed more than decent at that point.

Game Notes

  • Blue Shirts with “Beat LA” on the front adorned each and every seat in the arena, including media seats off the court.
  • Right off the bat the Hornets fans were were into it (thanks to the Bee Zanies) screaming their patented “Bee-fense” chant. Overall the intensity was somewhere between games three and four. Good, but not fantastic.
  • The Hornets production staff really did a great job with the videos and in game bits. I especially like the “bandwagon fan cam”, which followed a skit involving four people from New Orleans, three of which were rooting for the Hornets. The Hornets fans were ripping on the bandwagoner. Afterward, the cam captured the lowest of the low- Lakers fans who live in New Orleans.
  • Marco thought he was going to get hot again early but in the first quarter he was anything but. Frankly I’m surprised he was left in the game as long as he was to start off because he was ice freaking cold and his defense was hardly inspiring. Overall it wasn’t a horrible game by Marco, but the team needed more. I think he knew it.
  • Why do so many Lakers fans wear sunglasses inside? Are they rolling at a Hornets game? Did they bring their legalized “medicine” and can’t handle the rather dim lighting in the stands? Does anyone have a better answer?

Thanks for the awesome season, everyone.

Oh, and it’s my birthday in two hours. I didn’t get what I wished for…

Seriously, thanks for being part of this with us. You guys make every second I spent following the Hornets this season totally worth it. Can’t wait to do it again next year.

2011-2012 starts tomorrow at Hornets247.com

Check out Hordan’s post, What the Hornets Got From This Season


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