Hornets Survive Late Push to Sneak by Trail Blazers 98-96

Published: March 10, 2013

Despite Portland finishing the game’s final seven minutes on a 19-11 run, New Orleans was able to hang on and notch a solid victory.

We’ve seen this act before.

With 6:53 remaining in the 4th quarter, the Trail Blazers called timeout immediately after a Greivis Vasquez 3-pointer gave the Hornets a 87-77 lead. However, not one person who has watched this Hornets team over the past 10 days could have been the least bit comfortable with the situation.

Sure enough, New Orleans found themselves facing a 91-90 deficit just 4 minutes and 15 seconds later thanks to the sharp shooting of both Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews, who combined to score all 14 Portland points during that stretch. The two teams continued to go back and forth after that – a Davis put-back was followed by a Batum jumper, and an Anderson 3-pointer was followed up with a 3-pointer from Lillard, giving the Hornets the ball with 11 seconds left and trailing 96-95.

For the first seven of those seconds, Vasquez appeared to be doing what he does so often in these types of situations – aimlessly dribbling and trying to get around either his own defender or others hedging off of screens, but  lacking the burst to actually do so. To make things worse, he was being guarded by Batum, a very solid on-ball defender. Vasquez finally made his move into the paint with 4 seconds left, but he really had nowhere to go, as Batum was directly between him and the basket.

Fortunately for the Hornets, Jared Jeffries appeared to disagree. Just as Vasquez was about to run out of space and have to force up a bad shot, Jeffries took his eyes off of his own man, Ryan Anderson, to look to apply increased pressure to Greivis instead (or maybe even step in and take a charge?). Instantly, the Hornets’ point guard shoveled it off to Anderson, who easily beat Jeffries to the rim for the go-ahead bucket and the foul. I have watched the replay of this final play about a dozen times, and I still cannot for the life of me figure out why Jeffries thought he had to help Batum on this play instead of sticking close to Anderson. Jeffries is typically a good defender, but he made a costly mistake in this situation. The result was a very satisfying victory for the Hornets, who were clearly frustrated from their 2-8 record over their previous 10 games. (Go to the 43 second mark in the ESPN video recap below to see the previously described play.)


Three Keys to the Game

  1. Win the long range battle. Both teams shot pretty well from beyond the arc, making 11 three-pointers each. However, it took the Hornets five less shots to get those eleven makes than it took the Blazers; Portland shot 25 of them, and New Orleans attempted just 20. Every Hornets player who attempted a three-point shot made at least 44% of their attempts; Anderson was 4-9, Vasquez  was 2-4, Mason was 2-3, Miller was 2-2, and Roberts was 1-2. The Hornets needed to make these kinds of shots to win tonight, and they certainly came through.
  2. Ball control. The Hornets didn’t perform great in this area, but they didn’t do terribly, either. Out of their 83 possessions, New Orleans turned the ball over 13 times, good for a turnover rate of 15.7%, slightly higher than the 14.2% average turnover rate for Portland’s opponents this season. The Blazers were able to turn those turnovers into 19 points, 3.5 more than their season average. Those points could have been costly, but the Hornets’ 55% three-point shooting was able to cover for that difference.
  3. Protect the paint. Decent enough job by the Hornets here, as they allowed even fewer points in the paint to Portland (34) than the Blazers average per game (37). That being said, the game tonight had an exceptionally low number of possessions, so that total isn’t quite as impressive as it may appear. Still, not a bad night’s work fron New Orleans as far as interior defense is concerned.


Other Notes

  • So how about that Darius Miller guy, eh? Eight points on 3-5 shooting to go along with five assists, three rebounds, and zero turnovers. Potentially even more impressive is the fact that when crunch time came around, Monty Williams opted to keep him in the game over Aminu, a very encouraging vote of confidence for the young guy. Though Miller may be lacking in raw talent, he makes up for some of that with a very high basketball IQ. In just one game, he may have restored at least some faith in his ability to carve out a meaningful role in this league. I’m definitely pulling for him.
  • J.J. Hickson really impressed me tonight; enough so that I am still just as surprised now as I was back at the trade deadline when no playoff contender would have even offered a second rounder for his services. He is a menace on the glass, can handle the ball decently for a center, and appears to be cutting down on the frequency with which he takes shots outside of the paint. Should the Hornets end up moving Lopez for help at other positions this off-season, they could do a lot worse than Hickson (who is an unrestricted free agent after this season) as a possible replacement.
  • If I asked you who played the most minutes in this game for either team, would you have guessed Brian Roberts? Because with 43 minutes tonight, he’s the one. While he didn’t shoot particularly well (nine points on thirteen attempts), he did amass 9 assists and 2 steals with no turnovers. The final month of this season could be an audition for Roberts; he has a team option for next season worth just under $800K, and if he plays well enough, he could have some trade value this summer.


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