Second Unit Lays an Egg as Hornets Fall to Lakers

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Published: January 30, 2013
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The NBATV’s Fan Choice Game of the Week had plenty of star power on display. From Kobe, Dwight, Nash, and Pau Gasol on the Lakers to Eric Gordon and the #1 pick Anthony Davis for New Orleans, there were no shortage of potential game changers. But the game wasn’t decided by any of those individuals. Instead, it was Jodie Meeks, Antawn Jamison, and company who dismantled a pathetic Hornets bench en route to victory.

The Hornets came out on fire, playing well on both ends of the floor and seemed to be getting whatever they wanted offensively, taking a 24-18 lead with just over three minutes left in the first quarter. A short 5-0 run pulled the Lakers within one, and that’s when it happened- the dreaded Monty Williams bench unit. If you have watched even one Hornets game this year, you know exactly what I am talking about. Monty puts an entire unit of reserves out there, and keeps them out there for far too long, leading to an inevitable game-changing run. Over the next 7 minutes, Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts flubbed and fumbled around, as the Lakers continued their run, rolling off 11 consecutive points to bring the total run to 17-0. A six point lead became an 11 point deficit and the Horents were forced to play catch-up for the rest of the night. They made a game of it late, but alas they fell short, losing 111-106 in Los Angeles.

The run’s were a constant in this game, as the Hornets and Lakers exchanged blows all night long. The one consistent from the Hornets end was that they went on their positive runs when a competent guard (Gordon or Vasquez) was on the court, and their negative runs occurred when both of those guys were sitting on the bench. I am not a huge fan of the plus/minus stat usually, but on this night, the plus/minus stat tells all: Hornets were +15 when Gordon and Vasquez were on the floor, -20 in the minutes they were off. That’s the game, folks.

Other Notes and Observations

– I am going to be very careful with how I word this, because I don’t want it to be misinterpreted. Here goes. Winning as many games as possible is not the #1 goal of this organization this season. Now please don’t take that to mean that they are trying to lose games or that they don’t want to win. Read my statement again. All I am saying is that it is not their #1 goal. Their primary goal is player evaluation and player development this year. If they can accomplish that goal AND win games, then that is fantastic, but they will not win games at any and all costs. They will not bring in a vet who is clearly better today then a young rotation player to take his minutes. They have chosen to give minutes to Rivers and Roberts over Roger Mason. They have chosen to put minute restrictions on Anthony Davis and not push Eric Gordon to his absolute limit.

They are playing each game this season with the big picture in mind, and while I tend to agree with the strategy long term, man it is tough to see them lose winnable games short term. But sooner or later next June will come and the #6 pick will be better than having #12. And if Austin Rivers develops into a quality rotational player, we can look back at the minutes he didn’t deserve but got in these months as a catalyst. This is the downside of the long-term strategy, nights like tonight, but think of all those teams who have just stayed mediocre year after year and ask yourself if a few more nights like tonight will be worth it in the long run. I answer yes.

– Austin Rivers had a horrible stretch in the first half offensively, but he was terrific on the defensive end. I know it is hard to separate the two sides of Austin, and we just tend to cringe when his name is brought up because of the offense, but he has really turned himself into a good defensive player. Then, in the second half he sprinkled in some quality offensive possessions with his defense and earned the right to finish out the game next to Gordon and Rivers. In fact, his defense was so good, that Monty put Rivers on Kobe down the stretch, and in possessions where Rivers covered Kobe, the “Black Momba” shot just 1-4. If we are gonna bash Rivers for his offense, then he deserves praise for his defense when it is this good, and it has been this good for a while.

– Brain Roberts. He has nice hair and an uplifting smile. My momma told me that if you can’t say anything nice…..

– Everybody worries that when Ryan Anderson misses a couple of open three’s or has a two or three game bad stretch, that something is wrong. Relax. This is how it is for shooters. They get hot, they get cold. Then they catch fire again, then their 24 foot shot is off by an inch a couple of times. It has been this way for every great shooter in history. Ryan Anderson is gonna hit 40% of his three’s this year. Some games he will go exactly 2-5. Others he will go 1-9 and in some he will go 5-6. You just gotta keep getting him looks, and even if he is missing, the threat of a guy like that does so much to help your team. Now those under the basket, reverse layups on the other hand? Better off passing those out Ryno.

– You know what? For once, momma’s wrong! I’m sorry, but it has to be said. There is no reason for Brian Roberts to be getting minutes on this team when it is fully healthy. Rivers and Mason should be our backup guards, and I would even prefer Henry get minutes at the two than see Roberts out there. He is a ball dominant player that kills the flow of our offense and provides nothing on defense, and he has no future on this team. It’s not like he is a 20 year-old like Austin who can possibly be a contributor down the line. I just don’t get it and I never will. 12 minutes tonight, 0-6 from the field, and a -16. In 12 minutes!!

– Aminu looked like he was trying to do too much out there tonight and he fell back into some bad habits, losing focus on defense and missing easy shots on offense. It was just one night, though. Hopefully he bounces back tomorrow.

– Anthony Davis was fantastic tonight, aside from maybe his post defense, but that is understandable seeing that both Lakers bigs have 30+ pounds on him. Outside of that, though, he was effecting every aspect of the game; hitting shots, attacking the rim, and using his length to deflect several balls on the defensive end. What was his reward for his terrific play? 22 minutes and a seat on the bench in the fourth quarter, as the game was being decided.

– Game tomorrow night at Utah. No word on whether or not Eric Gordon will play, but seeing that the Hornets have 5 games in 7 days, and this is a back-to-back, I expect Gordon to sit and Rivers to get the start. Game is at 8:00 CST, just less than 20 hours from now, or in NBA ref time, 2.5 seconds.

23 comments
Bigeauz
Bigeauz

RE: Roberts, at least Austin has shown some signs of improvement, even if he obviously still has a ways to go. What does Roberts do better now than when the season started. Also, we had an exceptionally hard time finishing at the rim last night, except for Davis. Lot of easy points missed there. And our starting Center is at best the 4th best rebounder on our team. Aminu in the doghouse and Davis sitting for most of the game=awful rebounding. That's what I noticed last night anyway.

NOH Domination
NOH Domination

Dwight Howard had 4 rebounds so.... Rebounding is a team concept so whoever played Howard on defense was doing their job keeping him off the boards even if they themselves didn't corral the rebound.

Nate
Nate

We know who's staying (Davis, Rhyno, Gordon, Vasquez, Rivers, Smith) for the future. Monty's gotta figure out who's leaving. I think that's partly why he's leaving the bench in so long. He has to see how they react when they get behind (heart, learn from mistakes, etc) We won't be in the playoffs. An extra lottery ball and another year of experience won't hurt. Especially considering it was only over a year ago CP3 was traded. This team looks a hell of a lot better than 90% of teams after that big a loss.

504ever
504ever

I think Lopez and Aminu are staying, too. Also, while Rivers stays (for now) he still needs minutes.

mateor
mateor

Vazquez will be elsewhere. Sub in Brooklyn or something. He is playing well, and is regularly the best performing player on the team. He has a place in the NBA, he has made that clear. But I bet it won't be with us. After next year he becomes an RFA, so I bet he gets traded 6-8 months before that vests.

Rafa Brazil
Rafa Brazil

I've never doubted Monty's decisions, but now I find myself with a question mark in my head after this half season... Why throw 5 bench players out there together?? And why the hell Gordon didn't get the freaking ball in the end of the game?? Vasquez had no ideia what to do with it, and if you pay a guy 14M, you expect he's getting the ball in crunch time... To me it was Monty... He doesn't seem to have "total control" of his team anymore, as Vasquez is pretty much doing whatever he wants to (most of the times it works), but late in the 4th, Anderson was red hot, our defense was suffocating them, Vasquez collects the board and what does he do? He races all by himself for a wild floater on a 4 against 1 that hit nothing but Jaminson's hand. What happens then? Lakers basket. And then? Vasquez burns the clock playing pick n roll with Lopez, no basket. Lakers basket... Monty has to look at his guys, and they must know without a single word being said, that in a 2,3,4 point game down the line is Gordon's time... Just can't accept that...

NOH Domination
NOH Domination

Do you watch other teams? Every coach throws out a bench lineup every game. A lot of coaches keep guys on the bench that could be starters to help with this. JR Smith, Manu, Pau, Lou williams, Crawford and I'm sure others. Unfortunately we don't have the luxury of a guy that can create his own shot off the bench. Look around the league and there are plenty of bad benches and almost every coach gets roasted for playing theirs. So playing 5 bench guys happens frequently and you'll just have to get used to it as ugly as it may be. Now perhaps he kept them in too long. That happens, but the Hornets are on a back to back with a daunting schedule looming so I trust Monty knows what he's doing.

Will
Will

I'm not sure whether it was lack of effort or awareness but it seemed like guys were extremely late on their rotations on D. I agree about Roberts; when his shot is falling he's impressive, but if he's making less than half his shots, he's a huge drain on the team. I know I'm in the minority here, but I applaud Monty for going with the lineup that was working near the end. Any other time, I'd want Davis in for Lopez at that point, but that combination got us back in the game quick, so why not roll with it. All those missed layups were driving be crazy. The refs were awful, in my opinion. How they called the off ball foul on Rivers to put Kobe at the line when we just got it within 4 is being me. Not to mention the missed 3 second calls. One positive thing I agree about is Austin's defense. Right on cue, David Wesley picks on Austin when he matched up with Kobe. Somehow, though, he shut him down.

Chuck
Chuck

Although, I should point out we got a break with the Lakers' incompetent coaching. Pau Gasol only played 22 minutes. They had no answer for his passing down low.

Chuck
Chuck

I understand the concept of winning not being the number one goal. But doesn't a road win against the Lakers and their 4 hall of famers kind of carry more weight for a young team? This isn't like a game against the Raptors during a back-to-back, I think this could have been a huge boost to the team's psyche. Especially for guys like Rivers, who got to play big minutes and match up against Kobe Freaking Bryant. Back-to-back road wins against the Grizzlies and Lakers, both title contenders to start the season? Tough to top that... Side note: every time Kobe faced up on Rivers I prepared for the worst, but he did an amazing job. And except for a couple rookie mistakes, I thought he played great in the second half. Evidently so did Monty. I just can't get over Anthony Davis only playing 22 minutes. You limit a guy's minutes by playing him 31 instead of 38. But 22 minutes?? For a number one pick who is ready to play right now? That's insane. Last thing: I hate complaining about the refs, but they were awful. Just awful. Granted, it went both ways, but that non-3 second call at the end of the game when Earl Clark camped out in the lane for about 10 seconds was absurd. A turnover there gives the Hornets the ball down 1, Ryan Anderson red hot. Even the Lakers announcers were laughing and calling it an 8-second violation.

kwilly
kwilly

I totally agree. This would have been a huge win for the team. Why limit Davis to 22 minutes when he is playing so well? Doesn't he have to play when the game is on the line? Shouldn't that also be part of his development? It's not just this game. Davis almost never finishes a game anymore. I simply don't understand some of Monty's coaching decisions.

NOH Domination
NOH Domination

Kwilly, if coaches and players are playing the game to get media attention or to try to win an award then their head is in the wrong place. I wouldn't want a coach or player like that playing on my team.

kwilly
kwilly

504ever I have league pass and watch just about every Hornet game primarily to track Davis' development as a player. It was not just last night, Davis didn't play in the 4th quarter of the wins at Memphis, Philly and Boston. I have no problem with limiting his minutes. The Hornets are 15-30 and going nowhere this year but I think as part of his development he needs to learn to play in the 4th quarter when the game is on the line. Furthermore, since the national media pays attention to the Lakers, last night was a chance to showcase Davis and boost his chances to be rookie of the year. The national media has all but conceded the award to Lillard and last night was an opportunity to change perceptions. The national media won't be watching the Hornets v. Utah so it doesn't matter how well he plays tonight. Nobody but Hornets fans will care.

Chuck
Chuck

Davis's injury and Gordon's injury are two completely different situations. Gordon missed a year with his injury and has missed games earlier in his career with the same thing. Davis missed a half with a sprained ankle, and a couple games earlier this season. I understand Monty wanting to rest Davis and not overwork him, I really do. But this isn't like a 36 year old KG or Tim Duncan who needs to be saved for the playoffs. Davis has the energy to play back to backs, and he needs to learn how to pace himself for the season anyway. It's not like he's going to be kept on a leash his entire career. At some point, hopefully next year, he's going to be expected to play 35+ minutes every night, no matter if there's a game the next night or who he's guarding, and be ready to play 40+ in the playoffs. I don't want him to have problems next year or two years from now because he's not used to playing starter's minutes.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

A stress reaction is far different than a sprained ankle. One is a bone issue, the other one of the connective tissue.

504ever
504ever

Kwilly, We play Utah today (second game of a back to back), and have 5 games in 7 days! I am not assuming Davis is hurt. He is returning from an injured, just like Gordon. How closely do you follow this team?

kwilly
kwilly

This wasn't a back to back game; the hornets last played on Sunday. Why assume Davis is hurt? Couldn't a member of the media simply ask Monty why he plays Rivers as many minutes as he plays Davis? Even if he is limiting his minutes why not allow him to play when games are on the line? Let him learn and make his mistakes now.

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Why assume he's not hurt? Why not consider both possibilities and more and see what explains the data best? Either way, his minutes are being limited. It's clear, and it's not a minor reduction.

504ever
504ever

I find it amazing people think they know more than the coach, who has an elite medical and training staff at his disposal, about the health of players and a player's injury. Clearly there is a good reason why Davis's minutes are being limitted in this a back to back situation. Health and heft both look like reasonable answers. (Davis has at out several 4th Quarters previously. So this is part of that pattern.) The back to back, on the road, probably also explains the extended minutes to the bench. The season is a marathon, not a sprint. Michael got it right in his recap above: THINK BIG PICTURE!

Chuck
Chuck

A freak injury could happen whether he plays 20 or 40 minutes. Guys with chronic issues are easier to spot. Everyone knew Oden had problems coming out of college. He never averaged more than 24 mins a game and he still had problems. Yao played in every game his first few years with no problems, then he just couldn't get his foot healed. Besides, those are way different guys athletically than Davis. I'm not saying overload him, but is 30-35 minutes too much to ask for?

NOEngineer
NOEngineer

Stress reaction. Ankle. Yao Ming. Greg Oden.

xman20002000
xman20002000

I don't know why Lopez's performance wasn't mentioned in the context of this article.... Suppose we had Jason Smith playing the 5 in the 4th quarter... I often wondered why Lopez plays only 15 or more minutes... How about feeding Lopez in the paint....

mojart
mojart

hate to say it but this lose fall on monty....poor rotation of players especially the start of the 2nd quarter and the start of the 4th quarter....he let our 2nd unit stay there too long....hate to see it.after trimming down that lead at the 3rd...we blow it up again in the 4th....the minutes of our players are really intriguing....love to see the lakers lose but a lose is a lose....sigh