« Sinking Down
Hornets Lose by 1. What was that last play?
The Hornets committed a games worth of CP3-era turnovers in the first half, handing the ball to the Blazers 11 times. Six of them were tossed directly to the Blazers, resulting in transition scoring that the Hornets couldn’t match. The worst part of the first half, however, was the perimeter defense. The Blazers took twelve three pointers and hit six of them. Two were contested. Yes. Two. So the Hornets came into the game, presumably knowing they were facing a team that took lots of threes, and proceeded to not do anything to stop the shot. Three of the passes were direct passes out of the post to the nearby wing three point shooter. This is the most basic basketball outlet pass in the world. The Hornets weren’t prepared for it, and the shooter was open each time. After a few such passes, the team did start closing on that first shooter, but then their rotations fell apart on the back end as three players repeatedly didn’t make rotations: Roger Mason, Lopez and Anthony Davis. I’d probably include McGuire in that list normally, but he’s been with the team about twenty seconds, so let’s just give him more time.
Then came the start of the third – and the defense became downright embarassing. Basic give and go basketball for the Blazers led to dunks and easy shots. The Hornets defense was perpetually scrambling, and when they did manage to cut someone off on the way to the hoop, it was an easy kickout for three. Batum spent most of the time grinning like an idiot as he did his best Andre Miller impression – tossing lobs to Hickson and Aldridge again and again.
Then, of course, the unexpected happens. Portland lets their foot of the gas, Monty gives up on Henry and Aminu trying to guard Batum – and inserts Lance Thomas, who has the strength and size, and most importantly, the motor to defend him. Ryan Anderson continues to be blistering hot. Lillard’s long minutes leave him exhausted and unable to penetrate. The Hornets thunder back as the Blazers inexplicably leave the one guy(Hickson) the Hornets couldn’t physically handle on the bench.
Several big shots and energetic defense later, the Hornets have it tied at 92. At this point, I’m feeling pretty good about the game. Lillard drills a huge, impressive shot to put the Blazers up three. And . . .
WTF? Davis lobs to Thomas at the rim for two. With 0.3 seconds left in the game. What? No three-prayer to tie it? I’m completely lost again. All equilibrium is gone.
What the hell just happened?
- Aminu started the game and was his normal self. Bad closeouts. Bad ball handling. Great rebounding. He was lost though, and didn’t start or play the second half.
- Lopez opened the game scoring on Hickson regularly. Once that stopped and he was forced a little out of the paint, he was a major detriment. Hickson wasn’t being impaired at all by Lopez, whose slow feet and inability to jump kept him from being a factor – except whenhe kept failing so badly to defend the pick and roll.
- Anderson and Davis were crushing the pick and roll by jumping the ballhandler in second half.
- Start Lance Thomas at the three. Even if he can’t shoot, his motor makes him a better option than Henry and his weaksauce off-the-dribble game.
- Meyers Leonard is a terrible basketball player.
- Before anyone bursts into tears, Yes, Vasquez had 23 points, 8 rebounds and 11 assists. And 6 turnovers. And took 20 shots. And couldn’t stay in front of any drive. And was torching Lillard off the dribble. And kept being burned because he couldn’t close out on the perimeter. For every awesome thing Vasquez gives us, he takes something else away. Tonight he was a net plus, but that line is not truth in advertising.
- Ryan Anderson. Simply wow. He made Aldridge work and was still on fire. ON FI-YAH.
- Rivers had a very quiet game until he drilled that big three to tie it. No fear. Still, he needs to find ways to be a little more impactful through the game. Grab a few more rebounds, rook.
- McGuire looked a little lost, but also had a few flashes. He’s known for his defense, so let’s hope that shines through.