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.


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