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EJ slices and Dices, Hornets rally from 21 down and Win

Published: December 29, 2012

We’ve been calling out Vasquez for months on this blog, and Michael and I have been speculating on the Vasquez-Gordon pairing on the podcast that entire time, both of us salivating at the idea of the two working together.  Tonight, we got to see them in both situations, and you can already see how much better EJ makes Vasquez – and how having Vasquez’s knock-down spot-up shooting and crafty dribble drives help Gordon too.

Flat out, it’s great to see how this team can operate with an explosive guard in crunchtime.

Eric Gordon

24 points on 12 shots.  14 free throws.   Penetration on play after play.  There simply wasn’t much the Bobcats could do to slow Gordon down when he got a head of steam going.   He was getting past the first line of defense, and drawing a second defender – or a third.  The result was him delivering a patented eurostep around a Bobcat help defender for a layup – or finding the uncovered shooters.

The set play the end the third was everything I had wished for in the off-season.  Smith set the high screen, Gordon explodes into the middle, Mason and Vasquez are in the corners, Ryan Anderson on the wing.  Gordon draws half the Bobcats team, and now he has three wide open options, as one Bobcat stays home on Mason.  Drop the ball back to Smith for a pop, whip it to Vasquez in the corner or Ryan Anderson on the wing.  Henderson, the lone Bobcat left to try and guard both Vasquez and Anderson understandably shades towards Anderson.  Whip pass to Vasquez, open shot.  Bottom.

Later, they’d execute a variation on this play twelve more times(with Davis rather than Smith), resulting in open shots for Mason(twice), Anderson and Vasquez, one turnover, two baskets, four free throws and one miss for Gordon, and twice for Vasquez to catch the ball on a kick-out and drive for an easy basket because the Bobcats were already scrambling.

Amazing what the team looks like with an explosive guard.

Of course, we can’t ignore the first half.

Transition Defense

In my keys to the game in the Preview, my first Key was protecting the ball and defending in transition.  They managed the first bit, only giving away the ball 4 times in the first half – but their transition defense was desperately bad.  Rivers, Vasquez, Lance Thomas, Mason, Henry, McGuire – all of them were getting roasted in transition as Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions and especially Michael Kidd-Gilchrist were exploding up the court on every long rebound and blocked shot and recorded 19 fast break points in the half. Combine that with Kidd-Gilchrist playing out of position at power forward and torching Anderson, Anthony Davis and Lance Thomas off the dribble, and the Bobcats opened a 21 point lead.

The Hornets wing players were just so damn slow compared to what the Bobcats had out there.  It was embarassing.  Maybe Aminu?  Of course, that just kills us in the half court defensively.  Maybe a new small forward?

Other observations

  • The Hornets small forwards combined for 11 shots, 6 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, and five fouls.  In 36 minutes.  I wonder why Monty was going with 3-guard line-ups?
  • Roger Mason as a three-point spot up shooter?  Isn’t that what we hoped he’d be?  Tonight, he got to do that playing off the creative talents of Gordon and Vasquez.  No need to try to be a pick and roll ballhandler.  Good stuff.
  • Anthony Davis had a so-so game on the offensive end, struggling to hold position.  Defensively, however, he got three blocks, changed about 6 other shots, and should have gotten credit for at least one steal.
  • Austin Rivers started off strong, attacking and passing for assists.  Then the Bobcats switched the speedy Kemba Walker onto him and he couldn’t get anything done.  His bad transition defense and refusal to let fly on two open threes got him benched for the rest of the game.   With Gordon around, his rope is going to be shorter.  There’s no question about it.
  • I saw Ryan Anderson uncovered more times tonight than I usually do in three games.  Part of that is the Bobcats defense.  Part of that is having an explosive guard.  The thought makes me drool with excitement.
  • Jason Smith couldn’t stop the fouling tonight.  Not all his fault, but sometimes the energy bites you.
  • I still love Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.  Motor and Fire.



  1. Pingback: Eric Gordon’s Return Propels Hornets Past Bobcats | NOLA DEFENDER

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