It wasn't a particularly interesting game to watch, but it felt good nonetheless. Despite the Hornet's recent struggles and the uncertainty hanging over the franchise, this felt like a win before it even started. The Hornets may not be an elite squad yet, but the Pistons as currently constructed are a bit of a mess. This is the kind of team that the Hornets should easily beat, and that's exactly what happened. The Hornets played a well rounded game and it was essentially all over by the third quarter.
The most encouraging thing tonight was the movement and motion displayed on the offensive end. Apparently that was something the coaching staff emphasized this morning (according to Bob Licht and Gil McGregor) and the team responded. There was more off-ball movement and more movement of the ball itself tonight then we have seen in a while. Paul was in pure distributor mode tonight (his shot wasn't falling anyway), but he wasn't the only player making crisp, smart passes. I noted great passes from Marco Belinelli
, Jarrett Jack
, David West
, Jason Smith
and Trevor Ariza
. As a whole the Hornets racked up 29 assists. The great thing? "Only" fourteen of those were Chris Paul
s. We need to see more of that.
Defensively the Hornets were solid as well. They contested most everything and as the Pistons have no real inside game it meant the Pistons spent much of the game hoisting contested jumpers. Ben Gordon was really the only Piston providing solid offensive production tonight, finishing with 19 points on 13 shots. I've always liked Gordon. Sure, he can be a remorseless gunner at times, but he's fun to watch. He's having a down year, but I don't understand why he isn't starting over the aging Rip Hamilton. Speaking of Rip, it took him 14 shots to get 13 points. He's a talented player, but even at his best Rip has never been one of the NBA's more efficient scorers. These days it seems like that is more true than ever.
Some bullet points:
Marco was hot all game long. CP found him for a couple of open jumpers early and that seemed to get him in rhythm. He finished with 22 points on 12 shots. Productive and efficient... it's a great combination.
West was equally productive and efficient, getting 25 points on 14 shots. There was really nothing the Pistons could do. No one on the roster matches up well with West's combination of strength and shooting ability.
Quincy Pondexter got 18 minutes tonight, and it was a bit of mixed bag. He looked good early on, hitting a three, grabbing a couple boards and playing solid defense. Later on in the game he ended up blowing a dunk and missing a layup in the span of just a couple of minutes. I do absolutely think he'll grow to be a contributing NBA player, I'm just not sure how long it will take. I definitely like the kid though.
Chris Paul was an excellent ballhawk tonight and that contributed greatly to the Hornets good defensive performance. He's been a better ball thief this season than I think he's ever been before, which is of course saying a lot. He had 5 steals to go along with his 6 points (on 7 shots), 14 assists, and 2 rebounds. Oh, and he only played 29 minutes.
Jarret Jack is still shooting at a horrid rate. He went just 2 of 9 tonight for 4 points.That drops his overall FG% as a Hornet to just 25.5%. You have to think that his shooting is going to improve sooner rather than later, but it's not pretty right now.
So the Hornets improve to 14-7 and 9-2 at home while winning their first game under the ownership of the NBA. A win was expected, but it was good to see regardless. Beating up on bad teams is one of the hallmarks of a solid squad, and the Hornets needed a game like this. The Hornets will likely face a much tougher test when they play the Thunder at home on Friday.