Tonight the Hornets dug themselves into a deep hole in the first quarter from which they were never able to fully recover. They missed 18 of 22 shots and added 6 turnovers to find themselves down 25-10 after 12 painful minutes of basketball. In the remaining 3 quarters, the Hornets outscored the Mavericks by 2 points, but this was mainly due to the Hornets' superiority on the boards, not some offensive turnaround.
The larger story of the night though happened with 3:25 left in the 2nd quarter. Austin Rivers drove to the hoop and landed awkwardly onto his recently surgically repaired right ankle. From his reaction, he appeared to have suffered a far worse injury, but X-rays came back negative. Fans can breath a further sigh of relief as, after the game, he claimed he doesn't expect to miss much time.
1) Rebounding. The Hornets out-rebounded the Mavericks 62 to 40, but it was the 20 offensive rebounds that really stood out. It was easily the team's best source of offense on the night: miss any shot and follow it up with an easier put back. Anthony Davis led the way with 17 rebounds but Robin Lopez (11), Ryan Anderson (9) and Al-Farouq Aminu (8) all left their mark on the glass.
2) Speaking of Aminu, the form on his jumpshot appeared visually more appealing to the eye. In the past, he has noticeably drifted or faded from his initial take off spot, but tonight he seemed to land more square. In addition, his activity was solid throughout the game. As long as his assertiveness continues to push his game in a positive direction, we'll have to live with some of the occasional bad shots and turnovers.
3) Darius Miller didn't have a significant impact, but he continued to show good marksmanship. Coming into the game he was 5 of 8 from deep and against the Mavericks added another 2 makes on 3 attempts. Hopefully, Monty Williams has taken note and has his staff continue to work with him so that his role continues to expand. If tonight is any indication, it doesn't seem wise to play Lance Thomas at small forward.
1) Awful shooting reared its ugly head again: 33.3 FG% and 28% 3FG%. For the preseason, the Hornets are now sitting at an abysmal 37.7% overall and 28.7% from deep. We're obviously bad at putting the ball in the hoop, but we're not doing ourselves any favors. For large stretches of the game, the offense looked forced, the team took too many contested jumpers and Anthony Davis' shot selection was questionable at best.
2) Lack of strong PG play. A significant portion of tonight's bad start has to fall on the shoulders of Greivis Vasquez. Despite a decent overall line, he was downright putrid in the first half, making 1 of 4 shots and committing 3 turnovers with only 2 assists. Throughout the game, backup Brian Roberts wasn't much better. At the moment, this young team is quite reliant on these two playing NBA quality minutes. If they're off and their vision remains limited, we'll continue to see Anderson, Davis and company operate out of their element and hoist bad shots or make poor decisions.
3) Eric Gordon's continuing Missing-In-Action. Yes it isn't fair to blame a guy in a game recap who didn't even step onto the floor, but the team desperately needs him. The organization has committed a generous salary on his behalf yet we continue to get zero return. If anything, many could argue it has been a negative return. The trickle down effect of him missing games has put a much heavier weight on the rest of the team (especially the PG's) and it's something they're not ready to handle.
Hopefully Austin Rivers won't miss too much time and perhaps Eric Gordon will make an appearance in the near future as he participated in his first shootaround earlier today. For now, all we can do is keep the faith and remind ourselves it's hard to imagine things being much worse. Our next game is slated for Wednesday as we host the Houston Rockets on NBAtv. See you all there!