Pacers 94, Hornets 93: Dunleavy Tips at the Buzzer

The Hornets don't seem to enjoy playing Eastern Conference teams much, do they?

That was as apathetic a performance as we've seen out of the team all year. And recently, these sorts of games have become stunningly common. 

The offense was- surprise, surprise- awful. We all understand that Trevor Ariza is really, really bad at basketball. Tonight, the average performance of literally every single small forward in the league would have superseded his contributions. And yet, at some point, fingers need to be pointed elsewhere- towards the plays that force the ball into Ariza's hands so often, towards the players that avoid shooting it themselves in order to force it to Ariza as the shot clock winds down. As huge a factor as Ariza's awful early-season slump is in the Hornets' offensive woes, it's also a result of this team's offensive mentality.

What is that mentality exactly? It appears to be "defense at all costs," but the unstated subtext has been "nothing else matters." Unfortunately, as much as Monty Williams wants to preach defense, offense is still exactly 50% of the game. Yes, good defense can lead to offense via transition opportunities. But playing elite-level defense does not allow a team to neglect offense the way this team has. Through 28 games, the Hornets have played worse offense than all but one team in the Western Conference (Sacramento). 

This team is terrible, terrible, terrible at offense. 

The Hornets played reasonably good defense again tonight- 102 points per 100 possessions. Those Posey threes were back-breakers, but even including those, it was a reasonable all-around performance. It was, as usual, our putrid offense that killed us. The longer we go without even remotely pretending to fix this, the closer we get to that eventual first round sweep.

As to the game itself- overall, I don't particularly care if that ball was still on the rim or not at the end of the game. Indiana executed its offense well on the final play, and Granger was unlucky to have the ball spin out like that anyway.

 

  • Chris Paul's turnovers are becoming more and more worrying. He's at a 16% rate through 28 games now, despite a career mid-13% average. Most frustratingly, his turnovers are coming in rather easy situations- entry passes to bigs, passes to Beli or Ariza posting on the wings, etc. 
  • In addition to the turnovers, Paul is getting outplayed by mediocre opposing point guards with alarming frequency. Darren Collison didn't seem to play that well and still finished with an 18-5-5 on 8 for 11 shooting. 
  • One positive: Emeka Okafor played a fantastic defensive game. Roy Hibbert was one of the guys that really scared me coming into the game; through the end of three, he was 0 for 7 with 2 total rebounds (0 offensive), including two blocked shots by Okafor. In the fourth, he managed to add a dunk on Jason Smith's head, but still finished 1 for 10 on the night.
  • Trevor Ariza was awful on offense and didn't do much to mitigate the damage with his defensive work. The Hornets' (and Chris Paul's) proclivity towards force feeding him threes at the end of quarters continues to puzzle me. Ariza is badly hurting this team right now.
  • James Posey was hot. Er yeah, let's try not to talk about it too much.
  • Jarrett Jack had 3 of his 6 shot attempts blocked, but he continued his recent trend of effectively setting up himself and teammates for shots (9 points, 6 assists).
  • Marcus Thornton had a fantastic game on the glass, finishing with 11 rebounds and 6 offensive. Unfortunately, he was wild and out of control with the ball in his hands. He forced multiple bad shots, and finished with 7 misses on 9 attempts and two of the uglier turnovers we've seen this season.
  • The Hornets employed just two backup bigs- Jason Smith and David Andersen- who logged just 20 minutes. Together, they combined for a meager 5 rebounds. It's become rather obvious at this point- the Hornets have a massive hole in their bench's front court, one that neither Smith nor Andersen can fill. Aaron Gray did not travel with the team. Indiana's commentary team noted pre-game that Gray was not active (Hornets had only 11 active players) due to "conditioning issues."
  • Danny Granger ultimately finished 8 for 22, but he got pretty much any shot he wanted from any spot on the floor.
At the end of the day, this team will go as far as Chris Paul takes them. CP is simply not doing enough right now, and we're losing to mediocre Eastern Conference teams as a result. It's unclear if CP's lowered role in the offense is his own doing or part of Monty Williams' overall strategy, but it's not working.

An easy stretch in the schedule (games with Philly, Sacramento, Detroit, Indiana, and New Jersey) has turned into a nightmare. And- for the millionth time- we've got nothing but our all-defense/who-cares-about-offense strategy to blame.
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