Rockets Pull Away From Hornets in Second Half

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Published: October 24, 2012

Once again, turnovers are the problem as the Hornets fall to the Rockets 97-90

Shooting 46% from the field and 47% from three is a significant upgrade for a team that has struggled in both areas this preseason. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story, as the Hornets took 13 less shots than the Rockets did tonight due to their other Achilles heel; turnovers. 26 total team turnovers that robbed the Hornets of opportunities to take advantage of a defense that was young and inexperienced. The Rockets shot a lower percentage from the field, from the line, and from deep, but when you get that many more opportunities, you can afford to miss and still win.

To say that Greivis Vasquez is over his head is a massive understatement. He is perfectly suited to provide energy and a change of pace 12-15 minutes a night off the bench like he did with the Grizzlies, but asking him to run an offense is unfair to both him and his teammates. Tonight he registered 8 turnovers. I personally counted nine, as a lob intended for Anthony Davis that sailed out of bounds did not count as a TO for some reason, but I digress. It wasn’t just the turnovers that were discouraging, it was the inability on multiple occasions for Vasquez to get the Hornets offense into a set that was equally maddening. When a player is forced to throw up a bad shot at the end of the shot clock because the PG dribbled for 18 seconds and got nowhere, I see that as a turnover as well.

There was some good in this game, and I will address that in the notes below, but the inability to hold onto the ball and run sets on the offensive end is by far the biggest problem this team faces moving forward. By advanced metrics, the Hornets defense was average overall last year, but if you really dig deep into the data, you see that the high turnover rate led to easy baskets, and if you were to eliminate a reasonable amount of those mistakes, the Hornets defense would have been elite. When the Hornets are able to set up under Monty Williams, they are an elite defense. When turnovers allow teams to catch the Hornets out of position, they become average. From what this preseason has showed us so far, we are looking at the prospects of a dismal offense, which will lead to an underachieving defense.

The Good

– Darius Miller is an NBA player and deserves major minutes on this team right away. There is 30 – 45 minutes available in Monty’s rotation and the battle is between Miller, Aminu, Henry, Mason, and Lance Thomas to get those minutes and in this writer’s opinion it is painfully clear that Darius Miller gives the Hornets the best chance to win when you evaluate all the guys in that group. And you know what? Lance Thomas is second. I don’t care where Aminu and Henry were drafted, I don’t care about their age. They have had plenty of opportunities and have not taken advantage of them. Miller has taken every opportunity Monty has given him and exceeded expectations. In my opinion, the starting SF job should be his to lose.

– We all loved Peja in 2008. By 2010-11, we had him in every trade proposal due to his salary and his bad back, but in 2008 we all worshipped the guy and rightfully so. He was a floor spacer who could get hot and take over quarters, and even halves, single-handedly. And you know what? Ryan Anderson is better than 2008 Peja. He is as good of a shooter, a much better rebounder, a better and more versatile defender, he takes charges, and he is always active. He is the best perimeter scorer this team has had since Jamal Mashburn or Glen Rice. He is that good, and he proved it tonight. 23 points on 15 shots, 5 of 7 from deep, and 8 boards in just 26 minutes. But when the Hornets got close and had a chance to win in the final three minutes……. I guess I will save this for the bad.

– Brian Roberts is not a point guard, let’s get that straight. He is a scorer who is short. He is a mid range version of Jannero Pargo. But at least he moves north and south with the ball in his hands, not east and west like Vasquez. When he is in the game, the Hornets get shots that look like shots you would expect to see in an NBA game. He made a horrible play on a fast break, and he had a better first half than second, but overall I felt more confident when he was in the game than Vasquez.

– Anthony Davis had several rim runs that should have resulted in easy lob dunks, but unfortunately, he doesn’t have a real point guard who can get him the ball on those plays. What we did see, however, was a good game from the rookie as he finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. The six turnovers, however, were a little surprising, and he faded in the second half after dominating the glass in the first.

The Ugly

– I am just skipping the bad because I covered most of it with Vasquez. The ugly to me had to do with the rotations, and I have my fingers crossed that Monty is just experimenting in the preseason, because I will lose my mind if this continues in the regular season.

The most beautiful stretch of basketball, by far, came in the second quarter as Miller, Anderson, and Davis made up the Hornets front court. Starting at the 9 minute mark and going until the Rockets called a timeout at 6:39, the Hornets had six offensive possessions in which they ran double high post action with Davis and Anderson. On one play, Roberts turned the ball over. Here are the other 5 possessions:

Ryan Anderson three (made)

Anthony Davis jumper (made)

Anthony Davis dunk off a beautiful pass by Miller (made)

Ryan Anderson three (made)

Ryan Anderson three (made)

Six possessions, 13 points. 2.16 points per possession. Beyond elite. Rockets call a timeout and what does Monty do? Brings in Robin Lopez. Next 5 possessions, 2 missed shots and 3 turnovers.

Fast forward to the 4th quarter. Ryan Anderson scores 12 points in a 5 minute and 10 second span to bring the Hornets to within 7. How does Monty respond? By pulling Anderson for Lopez of course!

Look, it is just preseason, so I am going to hope that Monty is just testing something out or saving Anderson, or trying not to show too much- whatever. But it is clear that this team thrives when Miller, Anderson, and Davis are up front. Lopez is a great change of pace big body- better than I expected, I admit. But Anderson is an elite NBA player, and he needs the minutes that elite players get.