The Hornets Beat the Mavericks

Published: March 6, 2009

That’s six in a row, as the Hornets won again tonight, thumping the Dallas Mavericks by sixteen and dominating the second half.  The Hornets bench was cleared with 2:46 left in the game, which is pretty much unheard of with Byron Scott – he always plays his starters way too much in a blowout(Carlisle had already emptied his bench two minutes earlier) – so you can guess the Mavericks looked pretty much broken in the fourth.

As always, let’s run through the game, bullet-style:

  • I felt bad for Dallas’s back up point guard J.J. Barea.  He and Antoine Wright got most of the defensive duties against Paul all game, and Paul was treating him the way eighth graders do fifth graders on the playground.  He was smacking Barea’s hand away, going right at him, and treated him multiple times to a contemptuous stare that looked right through Barea like he wasn’t even on the floor.  Defensively, Paul was even more disrespectful of poor J.J.  I counted four posessions where Paul left Barea open on the perimeter – and never came back.  He simply walked away and helped out elsewhere, showing no concern about Barea at all.  It was so egregious that I re-watched Barea’s second stint in the game, and I figured out why.  Neither Dirk nor Kidd pass to him.  Paul kept close to Barea for a few posessions and then cheated towards Dirk three times.  Not once did the ball skip out to Barea, even when he was left wide open.  So Paul abandoned him – and it led to some nice defensive posessions.(Oh yeah, Paul had 27 points on 18 shots, 15 assists, 4 rebounds, a steal and a pair of turnovers.  Nice)
  • The first 6 minutes of the game had me having pleasant flashbacks as Josh Howard was given open 20-foot jumper after open 20-foot jumper – and he took them, missing repeatedly and often.  It was like watching the first round of last year’s playoffs all over again.

  • Barea being ignored was really just a symptom of the Dallas overall problem.  They had 12 assists all game long, and I was quite honestly surprised they had that many.  Dirk went one on one.  Howard, when he was in, went one on one.  Antoine Wright went one on one.  Only Terry had any inclination to pass, and usually that was after he had gone one on one and failed to generate an easy shot for himself.  Now – the Mavericks have produced some of the lowest assist numbers in the league for a few years now, but it was painful to watch in action tonight.
  • For all Byron exhorting his team to push the ball and try to score in transition, the Hornets really only pushed it on a handful of plays.  Typically it was Paul with one other player moving a little faster than usual, Paul penetrating, and the other guy getting an open look.  There were only about 8 Hornet’s posessions in an 84-posession game that I would classify as pushing the ball.  Happily they resulted in 13 fast-break points.
  • West’s stretch of big scoring games came to a halt tonight, though he still finished with 19 points on 50% shooting, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 blocks, and 2 turnovers.   The Mavericks were clearly aware that he’d been hot recently and though they only doubled him as soon as he touched the ball a few times, they always had one guy cheating off and coming to help out as soon as he made his move.  West, who last year I would never have called a good passer, made a bunch of great decisions, though – picking up those three assists while dishing out at least five other passes that led to an open shot or another pass for an open shot.  Defensively, West did a passable job on Dirk.  He basically played fundamental defense and let Dirk shoot the mid-range shot.  Dirk did stick a few tough jumpers early and West had to get a little more aggressive as the game went on, getting suckered into some bad fouls by Dirk, but all in all he did what he should do.
  • Julian got the start in Peja’s place and had 6 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal and 2 turnovers in 22 minutes.  His defense was pretty solid, and I only saw him get caught cheating off his guy one time, which was a huge difference from earlier games.  Offensively, he was a bit of a mess when he wasn’t going towards the basket with a head of steam.  He turned down 4 wide open shots, and instead drove.  Twice he turned the ball over, and the other two times he passed the ball to no advantage for the Hornets.  He’s got to take the open shot.  Got to.  He’s got to get his confidence back.
  • Rasual Butler had 18 points on 13 shots, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and some excellent defense on Jason Terry.  JET usually gets a bunch of open looks against us, but tonight his off the ball movement only generated two uncontested shots when the Phoenix was tracking him – and both of those were a little hurried.
  • Tyson had another double double – and went 5-5 for the game, getting looks off of putbacks and the ever-present Crescent City Connection.  A minute into the third I was thinking to myself, “Wow, Dallas has done a great job limiting the Alley-oop between Paul and Chandler,” and then they ripped off three of them over a few minutes.  I felt kinda stupid.
  • Daniels, Posey and Marks played well.  No, they didn’t have huge numbers, but they played hard, defended better, and Paul was able to sit on the bench for almost 8 minutes in the second quarter and the Hornets maintained their three point lead the entire time he was out.
  • You know . . . I try to get past my contempt for Kidd, but it still lingers, so I’ll just embrace it for now:  Kidd blew goats as usual tonight.  I found it amusing that for 75% of the game, Kidd was always switched off of Paul defensively, protecting the old guy from looking too stupid.  Of course, that usually ended with him having to try to stop West from posting up and scoring, and he still looked pretty stupid and just as ineffective.  He ended with 13 points on 11 shots, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and two turnovers in 37 minutes.  Supa-star!

OKC comes visiting Saturday, conflicting poor Diane, who won’t know which of her teams to root for.  Have a good night.

Update: Here’s the highly entertaining play of the night, with Paul dribbling between Jason Terry’s legs on the fast break.

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