Late, but the Monty finally departed Aminu. His defense is horrible and their opponents were doing the party at our perimeter.
Grizzlies win in a game with a ton of subplots
For a game I didn’t expect to hold a lot of significance, this game had a lot of fascinating subplots.
The first five Hornets possessions were outright brutal. Vasquez Turnover, Vasquez Turnover, Vasquez Tied up for a Jumpball, Vasquez Turnover, Open Court block by Rudy Gay on Xavier Henry. On the second possession the Hornets had the ball for 20 seconds and got the ball exactly one step past the three point line before throwing it away. Like the opening of the Thunder Game, I just knew we were going to lose from that moment.
I ended up being right, but Monty wasn’t kidding around this time, and he started making moves and pushing buttons. In fact, he actually had started pushing buttons before the game even started, for the Hornets opened the game with Xavier Henry at small forward and Al-Farouq Aminu on the bench. Aminu didn’t get a minute of action, and the broadcast team reported that Al-Farouq had been pulled for bad defense. Two things came of this.
- Henry got some extended run and played fairly well offensively.
- Despite some hot shooting by the Grizzlies(Pondexter), the Hornets did cut down on the number of open threes and their perimeter defense was better.
Clearly, the message was received, because everyone was working harder on the perimeter. Henry worked, and helped there. Where he didn’t help was trying to stop Rudy Gay in the post, who faced up and went to work. Normally, I’d be happy with that result, but tonight Gay was attacking and getting contact. Unusual for him, and it paid off for the Grizzlies, who struggled mightily when they weren’t turning over Vasquez and Robin Lopez.
Vasquez and Lopez, in fact, were the other two players to feel the minute hammer tonight. Though Vasquez once again put on a passing display, his inability to handle pressure from Conley got him a quick pull, particularly because Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts were working so well together. Those two guys, who had gone 0-11 in the previous game, put up 30 points on 23 shots, dished 6 assists, played with energy and only had two turnovers. For a stretch, Rivers was running the point, and the two seemed to be working well as they definitely gave each other outlets when the Grizzlies punishing perimeter defense was too tight.(something Mason was not really doing for Vasquez to start the game)
Lopez got the hammer when his shot wasn’t falling and his help defense was ineffectual. He did a great job pushing Marc Gasol way out of the paint, but other than that, he was missing shots and getting stripped by Conley as the diminutive guard ran buy guarding a cutter. The result was Monty playing Jason Smith big minutes. And they were BIG minutes. Smith had five dunks and five blocks, ran the floor like a deer and fought like crazy. He was clearly exhausted as the game was winding down, but I still shouted “NO MONTY!” at the TV when I saw Robin Lopez waiting to come into the game for him with three minutes to play.
Sigh. Lopez turnover. Can’t have everything.
In the end, the Grizz had just enough long range shooting, 18 fast break points to the Hornets’ 6, and they pulled out the win.
- Ryan Anderson’s game will look subpar in the box score. 15 points, 2 rebounds. I’ll tell you right now, he was vital in that game. He battled the bigger, heavier Zach Randolph ferociously all game. The guy is tough, and despite getting different looks – Gay, Arthur and Randolph all took turns guarding him – still managed to get off a nice set of shots. He did miss the big bodies of Lopez and Vasquez out there though. The down screens those two guys set are pretty fantastic.
- Xavier was aggressive and didn’t hesitate on his shots. He’s getting his chance, and he took a little step in seizing it tonight. Keep going, X. This is your opportunity.
- Darius Miller had a game like Anderson’s. You’ll look in the box score and see 1 rebound, 3 assists, 4 points on three shots in 27 minutes. Miller played a smart game, though. His defense was sound, his passing was great, he only made on play all game I rolled my eyes at. Good minutes for the rookie.
- Austin Rivers is doing exactly what he needs to with that floater – which is one of the toughest shots in the game to master. I’m feeling good about his chances to do so – though that could just be because I saw him hit it five times tonight and I’m like Dori from Finding Nemo.
- Four guys off the bench got more minutes than any starter but Ryan Anderson. I hope Monty keeps doing that.
Heat are tomorrow! Here’s hoping for another good game.
For the remainder of the year, I can live with Anderson coming off the bench while Davis is healthy. However, Davis and Anderson both better be starting at the beginning of next year. They need to play together as much as possible to develop chemistry.
The last turnover by Lopez started with a guard passing him the ball with 5 seconds left on the clock, 10 feet from the basket and closely guarded. That pass should never be made. Anderson was being hounded by Zach the last 3 minutes, and we ran zero basketball plays to get him an open look. Other teams run multiple screens for their 3-point specialist to get them shots. We need all of our players to learn how to do that. Thanks for giving Anderson props for all of his other smart and tough play all over the court. I can't wait for Smith to lose the thumb wrap. He can't seem to catch half of the balls cleanly with that thing on. Don't know what Lopez's excuse is..... We also need to learn how to kick to the corner for an easy 3. Mason got a couple, but Miller stands there open a LOT without anyone passing him the ball. Roberts is especially guilty of failure to find those open corner shooters.
Grats on the break out games by X, River & Miller. I think Dayton and Smitty were sensational, as well. Actually, I thought things were most successful when Rivers handled the ball and Dayton played SG--cutting or rubbing off screens. He can flat out score. Lance Thomas continues to bring toughness. So does Ryno. Smitty is a force of nature this season. I am really looking forward to AD getting back so Lopez can play less minutes.
Pargo is often the comparison for Roberts, but he reminds me of a smaller Gary Neal.. I think he's a better shooter than Pargo
There was a tweet about Randolph's absence from the glass, and it can absolutely be explained. Ryan Anderson was literally only concerned with getting a body on Randolph, and he was throwing every pound of weight he had into preventing him from both getting the ball in the post or from boards. While 8 guys were playing basketball, Anderson/Randolph were having a WWE wrestling match, and it was fun to watch. I don't know if Monty told Anderson to do this, but Anderson is a warrior.. loved it. Every night, I chuckle at least once or twice when Anderson just drills a jumper very few NBA players have any business taking. Privilege to watch him. Final note on Anderson: everyone needs to pay close attention to when he misses 3s, because he often tries to take charges the next possession to make up for the miss. Really cool when he pulls it off Smith is back! We "kneeded" him. Sorry, had to. All said, very pleased with the effort from our bench tonight. Darius Miller is already 10x as skilled as Aminu. We all know he can shoot, but I had no idea he was that good of a passer. Lost composure on that backwards bounce pass to Roberts, but that's my only complaint. I thought he did a very good job on Gay, who was just hitting every shot he took. My favorite play, by far, was when he recognized Gasol about to receive an entry over whoever was in front of him. Miller saw it coming a mile away. X also had a couple of nice steals tonight, and was hitting his jumpers. Still hesitant to believe it's a trend, but nice to see. Roberts is a very good shooter, and shooters have nights where they're hitting everything, and tonight was one of them. Rivers did much better tonight, and even had a few key defensive plays.. not athletic, eh Chad Ford? Remains a project, but glad he/Roberts played so well tonight. Still makes those rookie mistakes, but last time I checked, he's still a rookie. Like where he's headed
I saw the potential for a pretty good bench: Anderson, Rivers, Roberts, Miller and Smith. Our needs are obvious: a point guard and small forward.
It was a solid effort by the feathered Hornets, relative to the competition they were up against. Nice to see Rivers hit some shots finally and Henry played ok, as you mentioned. Smith played with fire and Roberts was Roberts. Still, it's another loss and plenty of things still went wrong as usual. Completely crushed on the boards and while the perimeter defense was slightly better, we still let them hit a laughable 47% from 3s. I remember David Wesley saying during the broadcast that he can "see the Hornets getting better at defending the 3, but they're just not there yet." Yes, unfortunately when opponents are shooting the 3-ball, our defenders are frequently just not there yet. I still have mixed feelings about the trade of Pondexter for Vasquez. Obviously Vasquez has provided more total production, however, Quincy has developed into a solid 6th man for a potential Finals contender. A lot to be said for that. I think Quincy might still have the bigger upside of the two. Guess we'll see. Don't know what to make the Aminu benching. Amuni definitely has his lapses, but he occasionally has his moments as well. His rebounding would have helped tonight. Well, at least we are getting an extended look at Henry which is ok. Overall, I don't think either of them will make particularly good players in the end.