Bulls Keep a Consistent Lead in Victory Over the Hornets

Published: February 19, 2013

I could write a couple of clichés and tell you long term the Hornets are going to be all right–and they are; did you see Anthony Davis tonight? But I’m not going to do that. Maybe it was because of the All-Star break and the chance to take a step back from the Hornets, but I came to a couple of realizations while watching this game.

The Hornets are going to have a hard time evaluating the team this offseason based on the year they’re having. Honestly, right now I don’t have a very good idea of the team. I’ve mentioned this before, most recently in our video chat we had, and in particular with regards to Eric Gordon, about how so many players going in and out of the lineup due to injury and everything else make it tough to evaluate how players work together and where the strengths and weaknesses of a unit lie.

But it’s a bigger problem than just a Gordon issue because, frankly, the Hornets only really get consistent production about 3 guys every game. I’m having trouble thinking of a five man unit (that makes sense position wise) that I feel can consistently produce.

And this was something that came up tonight against the Bulls. Robin Lopez, a player who has had a pretty good season, a guy who has put up a PER of 20.4, disappeared tonight. For all the great games Lopez has had this season he also has 33 games where he grabbed 6 or less rebounds. And 24 games with fewer than 10 points. It was a tough matchup for him tonight but you can’t honestly tell me you expect him to produce night in and night out in the NBA. In a game where the Hornets needed him to battle the Bulls front line he took 1 shot, scored 1 point and only took down 4 rebounds. His defense was actually pretty solid, but if the Hornets want to become a legit contender, they need to get consistent production from their core group of players.

Right now they don’t have that. It’s going to make Dell’s job incredibly hard when he has to figure out who to keep. I like to think I know what most players on the team bring to the table talent-wise and then one of them goes into a prolonged period or great or poor play and that idea is turned on its head.

Look at Gordon tonight. There were moments when he looked like a max player and then moments when he looked far from it. The more I think about it the more I question what his potential is. How is a GM supposed to build around that?

This was a winnable game and why I don’t want this recap to just keep saying the future looks good–though, again, it definitely does–because to make sure the future is bright the foundations need to be built upon.

I don’t look at the Hornets as a rebuilding team. They’ve done that with the Chris Paul trade and last season’s record. Now Anthony Davis is here, the foundation is set, and the team is in building up mode. Davis might still be a few years out from reaching his max potential, but the team still needs to be improving while he gets there.

Other Observations

-Another big observation I had is about the Hornets defense. I’ve been consistently vocal on the site and twitter that I’m not a fan of Monty’s everyone-collapse-into-the-paint-give-up-open-perimeter-shots-defensive strategy. I get it though. Protecting the paint is one of the most important things you can do.

Yet after the defense collapses you consistently see the ball get kicked out, a Hornets defender chasing but nowhere near, then when the defender gets close another pass along the perimeter until someone takes an open shot.

So where is the real problem?

It’s that the defense collapses too late. Tonight the Bulls guards and wings easily drove from the perimeter. From there they either scored or dumped it off to Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah for an easy score. When the defense collapses it wrecks the Hornets’ help defense because, well, there is no one to provide it since everyone is attacking the man with the ball.

It leads to an easy pass to an open man under the basket or a kick out. Collapsing on the ball handler while also preventing easy 2’s. Another way to do it would be to simply not leave wide open lanes for players to drive into, which we saw tonight especially. Or just get better on-ball defenders. That would work too.

-I’m not sure if it was rust, but the Hornets looked totally out of sync to start the game. They were trying to run handoffs but instead had players running right into each other. I was happy to see that despite that they still hung tough on defense, get rebounds and steals which allowed them to push the tempo of the game and score points to break out of the starting funk.

-I liked what Lance Thomas did in the game tonight and I wish Monty had put him in earlier than the 3rd quarter. But he did give up a wide open three to Luol Deng.

-1 point from Robin Lopez in unacceptable. I don’t care that he played well on defense. If the Hornets want to win they need more than that from him on the offensive side. You can give me all the excuses you want but it’s that simple.

-I was actually impressed with Brian Roberts in the 4th quarter… until he turned the ball over on back to back possessions. But overall, I was impressed with his passing ability. In crunch time he was actually looking to pass first. It was nice to see his game evolve.

-I’m so glad Marco Belinelli didn’t light the team up. I was incredibly worried about that.

-I really like how Aminu has been playing recently. I don’t think he’s the long term answer for the Hornets at the SF spot, but he seems to be focusing on what he does best which is rebounding. Offensively he is cutting down his shot attempts and looking for hockey assists which is an import part of Monty Williams’ offense. Defensively his long arms allow him to knock passes down and steal them which leads to a fast break. I’m digging this right now.

-Anthony Davis might not be human. Awesome game from him. The future looks bright as long as he’s in New Orleans.

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