Timberwolves 113 , Hornets 98: Minnesota Shoots New Orleans Out of the Building

Solid offense offset the Hornets' mediocre defense through one half, but when Wes Johnson and Minnesota began stroking the long ball, the game quickly got out of hand.

In a sense, these games are difficult to analyze. Any loss in which the primary defensive flaw is the allowance of long distance shooting is tough to de-construct in general. Defenses like that of the Hornets are designed to allow distance shooting. No team can take away every offensive option of an opponent; good defenses pick their spots. The Hornets deny the paint and they deny transition. A guy makes a 22 footer, we nod and tell him to do it again. Tonight, the Wolves simply did it again and again and again. Do you blame it on luck? Do you blame it on poor defense? It's tough to say.

The Hornets did have other flaws defensively. They fouled way too frequently, often in ridiculous situations (the three fouls Michael Beasley drew within a 20 second stretch to begin the fourth quarter epitomized this). As terrific as the overall defensive rebounding effort was, the team fell apart a little in the end. But those things considered, the reason we lost this game was the Wolves' shooting. Minnesota bordered on nearly 60% eFG tonight while New Orleans hovered at barely 40%. And that ultimately leads us back to that original question- who do we blame?

It's especially difficult to answer when the team in question is good defensively. If a team consistently allows plus shooting to its opposition, you simply write it off as bad defense. When a team consistently limits its opponents to poor shooting nights and then gives up a wild eFG%, the story is far more nuanced. But in the end, there's no question the Hornets played poor defense tonight, especially compared to the D they've played thus far. 

Other notes:

  • The offense absolutely collapsed in the second half. The team ran far fewer movement plays, the burden of attack shifted from Chris Paul to other players, and we paid the heavy price. The Hornets were devestatingly bad in the fourth quarter. As "lucky" (or not) as the Wolves' outside shooting was, the Hornets have nobody but themselves to blame for yet another atrocious offensive performance. 
  • Chris Paul had 16 points in the first half and 5 in the second half. Again, we don't know if it's a matter of recognition, health, or deference. The point is going away from a Chris Paul-centric offense hasn't worked, isn't working, and will never work. Broken record at this point, but until Monty Williams (/whoever is responsible for the ridiculous shift in offensive strategy game-to-game) learns this, we'll flat out suck at offense.
  • Before anybody busts out the "see, Chris Paul scored a lot! and we lost!" argument, erm, please don't.
  • Trevor Ariza was completely lost against Michael Beasley. It's one of the few (the first?) times we've seen him play like this all year, and Beasley's additional weight/length was a huge factor. 
  • The Hornet bench shot 5 for 20. Jason Smith shot 1 for 5. The team used a backup center (Mbenga) for exactly 21 seconds up until garbage time. The Hornets need bench help (up front) in the worst way.
  • I didn't realize until looking at the box score how abysmal Marcus Thornton was offensively. I still think he doesn't get enough foul calls, but 2 for 9 with 4 points? Yikes.
  • This team is radically different, home and away. 
  • Lakers on Wednesday. I'm just as not excited as you are.
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