Second Unit Lays an Egg as Hornets Fall to Lakers

Published: January 30, 2013

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.


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