Hornets Tank (err, Choke) Down the Stretch in Brutal 105-102 Home Loss to Magic

Published: March 4, 2013

Despite leading by as much as 17, the Hornets couldn’t close out one of the worst teams in the NBA and fell by three points on their own home court.

After 44 1/2 minutes, all indications pointed towards a second straight home win with the Hornets in possession of a commanding 97-88 lead. However, we’ve come to learn quite well from this team that things aren’t always what they seem, as New Orleans fell apart down the stretch through finding new and creative ways to give the game away. There is simply no excuse for allowing a team as starved for talent as the Magic to eliminate a 9-point gap on the road in the game’s final 3 1/2 minutes. None. And yet Arron Afflalo, a player averaging only 1.2 points per field goal attempt and 3.2 assists per game for Orlando this season, scored or assisted on 12 of the team’s 17 points in that span. No one could seem to stop him from getting where he wanted and closing the game out, including the guy that the Hornets hoped would be doing the same for them, Eric Gordon. The Magic’s three offensive rebounds on their three missed shots in that same 3 1/2 minute stretch certainly didn’t hurt either, but the real dagger was Tobias Harris’ rebound of Afflalo’s only missed free throw with 11 seconds remaining. Before my brain explodes from the mixed emotions that result from both pulling for a tank and being appalled by the lack of execution down the stretch all at once, let’s revisit my three keys to the game.

  1. Pack the paint and encourage threes on D. The Hornets successfully accomplished the first half of this goal, but failing at the second half is a big part of what cost them the game. The Magic shot 21 three-pointers, making just seven of them, which is right in line with their 28th-ranked 33.5% percentage from beyond the arc. However, Orlando blew the cover off of their 42.9 points in the paint per game average, scoring 54 points from that area. Eight of those points came in the Magic’s 17-5 run to end the game.
  2. Don’t make stupid mistakes. The key here was to refrain from both committing careless turnovers and fouls, and the Hornets did well for the most part. New Orleans turned it over 11 times, about three less than their season average and one fewer than what Orlando typically forces per game. The Hornets were also incredibly impressive in regards to their free throw rate allowed; up until the game’s dreaded final 3 1/2 minutes, the Magic posted a horrendous .101 free throw rate. Even after Orlando doubled their free throw total in that last stretch, a final free throw rate of .184 is still worse than the Magic’s league-worst season average of .194 free throw attempts per field goal attempt.
  3. Keep Nikola Vucevic off of the offensive glass. The Hornets succeeded here, allowing just a 9.3% offensive rebound rate to Vucevic, who pulled down 4 offensive boards out of the Magic’s 43 missed shots. Not bad, but nowhere near game-changing, and it showed in his lack of offensive production (9 points on 3-6 shooting).

Other Notes:

  • In case it actually needs to be said, I obviously don’t think that the Hornets tried to throw this game away. I fully believe that all players who take the court give 100% effort 100% of the time. My questions about “tanking” only arise when certain players are held out of games entirely for questionable reasons.
  • The Hornets could have potentially stretched their 10-point first half lead even further if not for both Lopez and Anderson getting into some serious foul trouble in the first half. Given the fact that, as noted above, the Magic are one of the league’s worst teams at drawing fouls, their inability to stay on the court was particularly disappointing.
  • While I think Roberts has earned his keep for the Hornets this season, I am liking the fact that Monty is giving Rivers the bulk of the minutes at backup point guard. Coach Williams knows what he’s getting from Brian, so now he’s trying to let Austin get more comfortable with the position. Whether or not that will ever happen, now is the ideal time to give him that chance.
  • If J.J. Redick walks after this season, Milwaukee is going to regret trading trading Tobias Harris for him. The kid can play. Hell, they may regret trading him even if they can keep Redick.
  • Davis had a huge game near both rims, finishing with 5 offensive rebounds, 10 defensive rebounds, and 4 blocks to go along with his 17 points. It’s games like this when it is really fun to watch him play, especially when we can see him learning the NBA game right in front of our eyes.
  • Gordon’s 17 points on 14 shots is hardly jaw-dropping, but his 5 assists and 0 turnovers was a refreshing sight. Hopefully he can keep up the ball protection against teams that are more tenacious defensively than the Magic.
  • Henry had one of those games that makes people start to think he could still be a worthy rotation player in this league, scoring 8 points on 3-6 shooting with 3 rebounds, an assist, and a block. I’m not fooled, Xavier!
  • Aminu was a menace on defense tonight, finishing with 8 defensive rebounds, 3 blocks, and a steal. Solid high-energy effort on the side of the ball where he has the most to contribute for Al-Farouq.


  1. Jason Calmes

    March 4, 2013 at 10:27 pm

    Davis got 39 minutes and played well. That is tanking?

    • Mason Ginsberg

      March 4, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      To be clear – in both last season and this one, I never have once thought that the team that is put on the court would ever do anything to try to lose games.

      • Jason Calmes

        March 4, 2013 at 10:57 pm

        So why would Monty not pull him? Why would Dell activate him?

  2. mateor

    March 4, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    The Hornets didn’t even tank last year, when they had every reason to with Davis as the prize. Ended up not needing it anyway. I found it quite striking, as last year was a banner year, tank-wise.

    Congrats to Sims for a true Club Trillion.

  3. saZam

    March 4, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Does anyone else think Monty lacks the ability to draw up effective plays at the end of the game? I seem to always see Hornets down one possession and come out of a timeout only to have all the passing options gobbled up by the defense and blowing up the drawn up play.

  4. mojart

    March 4, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    the positive….i FINALLY saw AD put up numbers playing 38 MPG…

  5. Basketbol

    March 5, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I watched the game, and didn´t see an inspired team, lookerroom problems….? Vasquez decision making was awful at times, he is good and then bad, need consistency

  6. kempleton

    March 5, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    “I obviously don’t think that the Hornets tried to throw this game away. I fully believe that all players who take the court give 100% effort 100% of the time. My questions about “tanking” only arise when certain players are held out of games entirely for questionable reasons”

    So, you are trying to say that the players are definitely not tanking but the coach might be tanking. Do I understand correctly? So, which player do you think was held out against Orlando (on purpose)?

    First of all, I don’t like the tanking discussion and I am very surprised that here on hornets247.com, the title of an article implies that our own team might be tanking. In other words, losing on purpose! That is unacceptable.

    Last minute and you are up by 2. Al Harrington tries a corner-3 and he makes it, Orlando up by 2. What if Harrington misses that attempt? Could you still lose on purpose?

    Against Mavs, last minute Hornets leading, two back-to-back 3-pointers by Dallas and suddenly Dallas is up. A big-mistake inbounding the ball, turnover, Dallas wins. Was that a mistake on purpose? Are we tanking? Did we lose on purpose? What if Dallas missed those 3-pointers?

    We are trying to win and we are losing. We need improvements in multiple positions to be a better team.

    • Mason Ginsberg

      March 5, 2013 at 2:43 pm

      The tanking reference was done merely to make light of how unbelievable it is that the Hornets could blow a 9 point lead in just 3 1/2 minutes at home to one of the league’s worst teams. My comment in the recap which you quoted was intended to express my overall opinions toward “tanking” – that while fans may root for it, teams never do it, save for the occasional late-season scratch of a player from the lineup altogether (certainly not the case last night, nor does it typically happen with any team before the last week or so of the season).

      Apologies if the title made anyone believe that I actually think the Hornets were not trying to win.

  7. kempleton

    March 6, 2013 at 10:25 am

    I am sorry for misinterpreting your words.

    As I tried to say, the idea of tanking is unacceptable to me as a Hornets/Pelicans fan.

    Our luck last summer was the clear evidence that no matter if a team tries to lose (on purpose like Golden State) or not(like us), The fate of 1st round draft picks are written on 12 ping-pong balls (3 combinations of 4 numbers for the top-3 picks, right?). That’s it.

    Monty tried to put a winning mentality into our young players’ minds last year and We can say that his efforts last year improved players like Vasquez and Aminu. Yes, we lost too many games because we were a young team. Due to multiple injuries, our team was almost only comparable to the backup units of some playoff teams, sometimes more than 1 D-league player in our starting lineup, if I remember correctly.

    Yes, we cannot make the playoffs again. This means, Yes, we need to and we’d better give more minutes to our young players again. Yes, I want to see Austin Rivers on the court much more. But, I want him and our team win. That should be the mentality and I think it is the mentality. I agree with you and I really don’t think neither Benson, nor Demps nor Monty wants this team to lose. In the end, It’s not all about draft picks. It is a new era, it is the Pelicans era now and it should be about creating a winning culture here!

    Anyway, I am glad we are on the same page and I am sorry for misunderstanding and questioning your intent.

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