Spurs edge Hornets in Home Opener

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Published: October 31, 2012

That was a fantastic game, even if it was a loss.  The Hornets, oozing blood from a limited and injured guard rotation, managed to hang tough against a veteran squad and keep it close down to the very last minute.  If anything, the game exposed the fact that Monty was essentially playing possum all pre-season.  The team that took the floor tonight had a very different agenda and game-plan than the one we had been watching in the games that didn’t count.

As a result, there’s a ton to talk about.  I want to touch on everyone who saw the floor, but I’m not sure which guy to start with, so let’s just go with the thing that surprised me the most:

Grievis Vasquez

Vasquez had an excellent game en route to setting a career-high in assists to go with a pair of turnovers.  Yes, the Spurs don’t force a lot of turnovers, but after seeing his averages in the pre-season, I was braced for a disaster tonight.  It didn’t happen.  It didn’t happen for one, primary, all-consuming reason:  Monty Williams let slip the reins.  After displaying a plodding, horrific pace in the pre-season, this Hornets team was pushing off of misses and turnovers  and looking for early offense.  Vasquez, who is only a moderately talented half-court point guard, displayed that if used in a quick-hitting attack he will make the right decision nearly every time.  The result was 19 fast break points and numerous early offense shots.

So let’s talk a moment about Vasquez’s running mate.

Al-Farouq Aminu

Aminu’s statline was great tonight – but he hasn’t changed.  Don’t fool yourself in that regard.  What made him effective, however, was the Hornets running – and his blistering athleticism.  He regularly beat his man down the floor and made himself available to finish in transition.  (Oh! The alley-oops!)  He also was under clear direction to rebound and start the break (though he was supposed to give it up before hitting half court) and he filled that role admirably.  Given his transition scoring and his excellent help defense, Aminu easily compensated for his limitations in the half-court offense.  Oh, and when I say excellent help defense, I mean it.  He was the best defender the Hornets had on the floor tonight.

Anthony Davis

Okay, okay.  I’ll get to the rookie.  Davis was calm.  He had ice in his veins as he nailed free-throw after free-throw.  He showed his athleticism around the basket, his knack for grabbing boards, and his touch finishing tough shots.  He even showed a nice midrange game.  This guy will be amazing once he figures out his one problem:  help defense.     The start of the first and third quarters, when the Hornets were getting torched by Parker on the pick and roll?  Davis wasn’t playing on the ball, but he did have the job of coming over to help under the basket if the primary defenders were beat.  Go back and watch it – he was consistently late rotating over once Vasquez and Lopez managed to trip over one another trying to stop the play.  It hurt, and I’m sure Monty will be pointing it out to him in film tomorrow. Still – that’s just a speed and experience thing.  He started to get it in the fourth.  I expect he’ll continue to pick it up those nuances over the season. (Let’s say the jury is still out on his perimeter defense too.  Stephen Jackson was eating him for dinner.)

Still, as far as the first game for the rookie against a good team?  Impressive.

Austin Rivers

If you look at his statline, you’ll condemn Rivers.  I’m not going to.  He kept being thrust into that lead guard role, and he’s just so outmatched physically out there he’s going to struggle, especially defensively.  Even with that, he found ways to attack the defense and break it down, and that was invaluable in the half-court where Vasquez is inconsistent and Roger Mason inept.

Roger Mason

He hit two big shots, but Mason should be spotting up for threes, not being asked to probe the defense off the dribble.  That was way outside of his skill set, and the Hornets lack of guards forced him into the role.  He did not thrive.  If only we had a guard who could come in and let him only have to play 10 minutes a game as a spot-up shooter . . .

Darius Miller

Miller still has growing to do (he had a pair of bad turnovers) – but he’s always where he is supposed to be and already has the ability to knock down the deep jumper.  That pair of skills makes him ideal to develop into one of those role-players the Spurs specialize in and everyone else is jealous of.

Now let’s move to my one complaint about Monty in the game.  (There’s always a complaint, isn’t there?)

Robin Lopez

Lopez had a fine game as a rebounder and post defender, but he was a wreck defending the pick and roll.  Monty was trying to match up his best post defender against Duncan, but Duncan wasn’t attacking from the post very often – and Lopez kept failing to recover to his man after jamming the guard on the pick and roll, leaving Duncan (usually) open for dunks.  I think Lopez had value, but I would have preferred to see some of his minutes moved to Jason Smith, who has the footspeed and energy to jam and recover on those pick and rolls.

Jason Smith

I mean, what do you say about a guy who gives you 12,6,1,1, 1 in only 17 minutes with a single turnover and foul.  Smith continues to grow as a player, and he’s becoming a master of the mid-range pump fake to bait his defender so he can put down a single dribble and attack the rim.  Two years ago, those moves would be turnovers.  Today, they make him a double-threat offensively.

Ryan Anderson

The Spurs were tracking Anderson hard all game long – giving him the Peja treatment.  He missed shots I expect will go down more often than not in the future.  Honestly, the best part about Anderson tonight was the way he fought for rebounds.  He’d wade into a trio of Spurs jerseys and clear out space for himself – and on several occasions he cleared out extra defenders so Davis and Smith could swoop in and snag offensive boards.

Brian Roberts

Sorry Brian, but I’m going to call you out.  You were put in the game for one play to guard speedy Tony Parker.    You were rubbed off on a screen by Matt Bonner – this was fine – but instead of remaining with Bonner as Bonner’s man did the right thing and chased Parker, you ran towards the paint to . . .  I don’t know what?  Force your way through a wall of bodies to try and steal the ball?  That, of course, left Bonner wide open.  Parker hit Bonner with a flip pass, and he drilled the three calmly as you desperately tried to reach him.  Read the scouting report, please.   Bonner is there to do ONE thing, and you let him do it.

Other stuff:

  • The Hornets rebounded 20% of the available offensive boards.  That will need to improve.
  • Eric Gordon was booed by the crowd when he was shown on the jumbotron.
  • I enjoyed the new broadcast team.

Next game is Friday!

44 comments
CoReMeGa
CoReMeGa

That was the best Hornets loss I've ever witnessed! So much promise.. and the faster pace was awesome! Vasquez and Aminu were awesome (I know Aminu had some goofy plays but still). Davis looked real nice... they're all gonna keep learning to play together and get better as the year goes.. and play hard for Monty!

J
J

Austin Rivers is a BUST nuff said

CoReMeGa
CoReMeGa

Waaaaaaaaay to soon to call him a bust. I think that he's a player that will take a couple years.. but by year 3/4 he'll be a nice spark off the bench!

loudlikepat
loudlikepat

Just saw that aminu had number 3 and number 1 on Wednesday's top ten. Awesome!

ballboy458
ballboy458

I'm still so puzzled as to why Brian Roberts did not play a single minute. He has played so well for us. Almost single-handedly winning two preseason games himself. And to bring in Mason in his stead,when not playing hardly anytime at all in the preseason makes me wonder what is going on with these rotations.

CharmedHive
CharmedHive

Great game last night, even though we didn't end up with a W Also, sooo nice to see that Aminu has the top play on NBA.com's Play of the Day! When was the last time that we got the top play?? This team may not rack up THAT many wins (although I think we have a good shot actually!), but all I know is this team is SO MUCH FUN to watch and I can't imagine how good our rooks will be after a few games..they're already playing very well!

Joe P.
Joe P.

It could have been more packed in the Arena last night. I don't get the "keep raising prices and have lots of empty seats" strategy. Why not lower ticket prices, SELL MORE OF THEM, plus increase concessions? Part of what makes players want to go to and stay with certain teams is the perception of the fan base. I'm stoked about all the season tickets sold, but in person there were large swaths of empty seats. I think GV is underrated. Sure, he's a role-playing point guard, but most teams don't have 5 all-stars. I thought Rivers and Mason both looked over-matched. WHY Monty? Why give Lopez as many minutes as he got? Smith defended the post better, and is better at everything on offense. Lopez is an ok insurance 4 big, but he was trying offensive moves that he should be benched for. He looked like Hilton or someone with the ball in his hands. I did get excited for a little stretch towards the beginning with Anderson, Davis, and Smith on the floor at the same time. Whoo Hoo! So glad the season is here!

Blackcoat
Blackcoat

With Smith injured for much of the preseason, I'm guessing that Monty doesn't want big minutes for Smith just yet. I'd love to see Smith on the floor more often though.

ADubs
ADubs

I turned to my buddy next to me and said "they need to make sure they don't leave Bonner alone on the kick out" and not two freaking seconds later, bam, 3 pointer, game set match. Reminded me of Horry for the Spurs against the Pistons in the 2005 Finals... deja vu all over again!

mojart
mojart

ur not watching the game...its parker who hit the 3 and not bonner

John in MO
John in MO

If Chief is half the player he was last night and AD continues to improve, we can win 40 games and almost make the playoffs.

xman20002000
xman20002000

So now Gordon has his money... I have been a supporter, not a fan, considering he would have made a difference in this game.. The Spurs looked old and the Hornets looked young but talented... It's funny because we can't move Gordon... we are stuck with him and he with us... In that regard I keep thinking of Tracy McGrady with his knee problems making $25,000,000 sitting on the bench... Then our problem as fans, we are accustomed to a talent and personality of a Chris Paul... Gordon on the other hand, is obviously talented, but has the personality of an artist... caught up in his craft but temperamental... Thrust he will not budge until he is ready, both mentally and physically...

Lucas Ottoni
Lucas Ottoni

It's sad to see that many empty seats in the Hive...

ADubs
ADubs

I agree, that was disappointing seeing entire sections empty... blame it on Halloween (parents were with their kids trick or treating) and Wednesday night (lets see how it looks Friday night, gonna be packed into the hive). Also, I don't like the Buzz Fest in Champions Square, move it back to the arena, where it looks like a bunch of people are out pre-gaming so out of town fans get the full experience of sports in New Orleans!

xman20002000
xman20002000

This was the first game but the crowd will come... plus per capita income is so low..

ADubs
ADubs

Attendance matters. Players want to play in front of a packed house. Players play better with a fully energized crowd. Ownership can see real results with their actions. Fans want to return again and again because the games are exciting, the crowd is fun, and they are at the place to see and be seen. Attendance matters.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

So for that to happen, it has to be a sellout? Owners see results in the pocketbook. Teams win without crowds, then the crowds come.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Sold out 98% a few years ago, so toss the per capita thing as being a cause, true or not as a fact. It's not like everyone in the city as to attend . . . so why does everyone's money, not 17k people's matter? They were 90% after a horrible season. This is good attendance in the context. Believe it or not. And why do attendance matter?

bywas2008
bywas2008

Oh and guys i kno it doesnt make a difference but... in the game recap video the announcer calls Jason Smith, Jason Thompson and its kinda infuriating, he knew what he was doin!

maximumballer
maximumballer

The hornets need a real starting PG or a good backup PG and I think we close out more games in the future. A backup PG would apply pressure on the defense when GV takes a break. davis just looked so smooth putting up points, the kid is gonna be great. Perfect from the FT line and you are our starting SF/PF. Awesome! Rivers is having a tough time, but he has the potential to be decent, no one could keep in front of him. Good start from the entire team, everyone helped out somewhat. I hate having Gordon if he is not all in. I mean he played the last four games of the year last yr, led the team in scoring, now he cant even play 15min? With or wiithout him, the Hornets are a team to reckon with

lvprivateer
lvprivateer

I was at The Hive tonight and when Aminu threw down that monster slam on the break in the fourth quarter a roar swelled up from the crowd that has been rare to hear in that arena in recent years. It was the sound of pure excitement, not the sound made for a bad/mediocre team that pulled off a lucky win, but a roar coming from deep in the belly of a fan base ready to explode with it's young team. They'll struggle against veteran teams like this when closing out games, but this is a new, youthful era and I couldn't be more excited.

Ian H
Ian H

Great game to watch but I think Monty folded a few times and reacted either too late or not at all. After halftime leaving Lopez for majority of 3rd Q when it was apparent Spurs was going to take ball out of Vasquez's hands. Offense was stagnant and Monty let that go on too long. He also rode Roger mason too long. Needed another ball handler late in game because they kept struggling in half court, Gordon or no Gordon, Mason shouldn't have played that much. Lastly his decision to front the post on Timmy was brutal. Gave up a quick 6-10 at the goal based on that defense and Monty appeared to be late to make adjustments. overall good games.

Carnby
Carnby

I agree about Mason, I would've liked to see Miller on the court instead.

bywas2008
bywas2008

Man that game was awesome, i had a blast watching it, (except the beginning of the third) But its all good, who would have thought Tony parker of all people would put the dagger in with a three, i was surprised, but as for the play, i loved Aminus performance, i mean how can you not get excited for one of the most athletic players on the court, figuring out hes the most athletic player on the court, Davis looked a little lost on D, its ok hes just itching to block some shots, im grateful for the effort, and i actually like austin rivers, he kept driving to the goal, i think he got fouled on multiple occasions, but hey we're a "young Team" the refs dont "respect" us and we wont get those calls (BS) Vasques was the absolute truth tonight with the passes, and if he had nailed that shot at the end he would have converted me to a GV fan lol. But seriously guys, dont discourage people from getting excited over young guys like Aminu playing well, he needs people to believe in him! Even if he doesnt give us all those spectacular plays like those witnessed, if we could get like 4 of those plays some good defense and some "ok" decision making from him a night, we will be alright.

Houp Garou
Houp Garou

Watching this griz clip game and eric bledsoe is putting on a show. I was always crushed that he wasnt included in cp deal but never more than right now. Hed be a perfect fit with iur young team

mojart
mojart

tough lose by the hornets...but it is part of the growing pains this team will tackle for this season....i don't know what is the problem of EG....but based on the interview to monty and dell i think this guy will be traded this season.....

Carnby
Carnby

I was under the impression that he couldn't be traded until next season?

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Gordon can not be traded to anyone until 12/15. Whether this is the last no trade day or the first trade day, I'm not sure, but I think it's when we can be traded.The NBA world is on ET, by the way. Gordon can't be traded to the Suns by us for the duration of the current deal. No exceptions. No disintegrations. This is due to him being matched. Gordon must consent to any trade this first year. This is due to him being matched. This will also be true in the last year of his deal since he will be a Bird player. If he retires, he's on the books for at least a year.

Will
Will

As a Lopez supporter, I felt he played well. He looked pretty slow on the P&Rs but I think that once we play a less teamwork oriented team his game will be more valuable. Rivers seems to have the skill set of an NBA player. Miller looks like a solid player and a great pick. Smith, of course, was the hustle guy that's actually talented; I can't say enough about Smitty. Vasquez, while still lacking the quickness, was great at getting guys involved with really nice passes. Once Ryno settles down, I think he'll make some of those shots he missed. I'm surprised Lance Thomas didn't get in at some point. I'm way too happy now considering we lost but I'm too excited about the potential that this team has.

Frank
Frank

Great game nothingless. This is what this team needs is energy and people if we have games like this, we are looking to have a very entertaining season. Loved the fact the fans booed Gordon, never diss the heart of TRUE New Orleans fans and ya better BEE-lieve Dat.

Jordan J.
Jordan J.

Also, I LOVED the Boos at Gordon. I don't care how he feels about it. I booed. He deserves no less.

nolahog
nolahog

They didn't even announce Gordon during the player introductions. He appeared on the bench about 10 minutes into the game. I was told that Monty told him to talk to the media today because he was tired of answering questions about the knee, and when Gordon didn't talk to the media, Monty had him escorted out of practice. I really hope Gordon decides to man up, because if you're getting paid 50 million dollars, and your knee is structurally sound, you've got to at least TRY and play. There's not an elite player in the league that wouldn't at least try and play to see how the knee feels. If this is all related to Gordon wanting out of New Orleans, then I'm blown away. How could you not watch those guys playing out there tonight and not want to participate? I really hope we have a normal resolution to all of this, but I'm starting to fear this could end badly. As for the game, the guys looked good. We should have won that f#@king game. Davis was as advertised, Aminu was in beast mode, Anderson was solid, Vasquez played up to his potential, and Rivers was afraid but started to settle in late. Couldn't be more pleased with Miller, he's going to be a little gem. If only we had an elite shooting guard who could have created his own shot at the end of the game when it was close. . .

Kempleton
Kempleton

I fell some sort of tension growing between the coach and his max player. I hope not. I don't know what's the deal with Gordon but if he keeps on acting like this, he will only win hate and yeah he will get booed instead of cheered. The only way that he can turn that hate to love is his play on the court but He unfortunately keeps staying away from it. Eric Gordon please live upto your "caliber", act like that and play like that on the court. Oh yes, I will never forget those words: "heart, caliber, etc." Those words showed us a different Eric Gordon face and unfortunately even if He got his max deal we have not seen anything else yet! We know that and We saw that He can great on the court but We want to see it again. Yesterday, We saw that our team can survive without Eric Gordon. But if he plays We are going to be a much better team! if! when?

Jordan J.
Jordan J.

I cannot agree more about Lopez. I kept saying to myself, "Why isn't Monty just putting Davis on Duncan to guard the pick and roll and Anderson on Diaw?" I think Lopez will come in handy against bigs like Bynum, Howard, and Pekovic. But to play him against Parker and Duncan screening and rolling was just dumb.

JayDogon
JayDogon

Also, I know everyone always talks about how dunks are so overrated and this and that but, I was at the game and when Aminu did those dunks it had the crowd going for the next 3 to 4 plays after which helps home court advantage. I'm not saying this game means Aminu will now become a star small forward but I'm saying the risk far outweighed the reward in declining Aminu's option simply because a lot of GM's in this league LOVE potential and will overpay for it at a moment's notice.

JayDogon
JayDogon

This is why I was totally against declining Aminu's option for next year like you, Ryan. Mike kept comparing Aminu to Julian Wright and that comparison was totally unwarrented. Juju had similar athleticism but wasn't as good of a rebounder and didn't have his defensive potential, plus he was always a goof and this was known even in college. I have never seen Aminu's dedication questioned and Juju could NEVER have a night like this. I also know that the SF position is so thin that Aminu's potential alone could get him overpaid on the free market kinda like a poor man's Nick Batum but younger.

NOEngineer
NOEngineer

Maybe we would not have seen this kind of game from Aminu if he were guaranteed.....

JayDogon
JayDogon

Even if that were true once we declined Aminu's option I felt like it was a lose-lose situation. Here were the possibilities: 1) Aminu ball's out on a contract year and we have to probably overpay to keep him now and hope that he's not one of those players who ball out on contract years and then do nothing. 2) We actually lose him after he balls out and he lives up to his potential or 3) Aminu sucks and we probably let him go. That's a lose-lose. The best option would probably be him sucking smh. We had a lot of cap room with or without Aminu's salary next year, saving that 3 million wasn't worth it in my opinion

Ron
Ron

That's exactly what I told my son last night...