A Vast Improvement, but the Hornets Fall Short against the Blazers

[Bumping this from the FanPosts - Rohan]

A Vast Improvement, But the Hornets Fall Short

Before I break down tonight’s game against the Portland Trailblazers, let me make one thing clear. The Hornets played absolutely great tonight. I saw a team that looked hungry for a win. With that being said, losing 94-86 to the Trailblazers was a hard fall for the Hornets, but we should not look at this game as a complete loss. Apparently, Monty Williams may have read my last blog and made some significant changes to the game plan. So let’s break down the Hornets game.

Where did things go right? Compared to Wednesday night against Chicago, everything went right! First off, Monty put together a great lineup. I loved the match ups tonight even with Vasquez starting at the point against Raymond Felton. The only mismatch was at the two guard position, but Belinelli held his ground pretty well throughout the game. A second kudos goes to Monty and the staff for their game strategy. Attack, attack, and attack the paint more! The Hornets put up 54 points in the paint. That’s more than half of their total points. Lastly, the staff did an excellent job with substitutions. I believe they have finally found a decent rotation off the bench. Adding newcomer Donald Sloan to the mix, the Hornets bench scored 30 points! If that was not enough, they brought defensive pressure and most important, pure energy to the floor. A B+ goes to Monty and the staff for tonight’s game.

As for the offense in general, the Hornets attacked the paint, got to the foul line, took the open shot, pulled down 37 rebounds, had 20 second chance points, and found the open man in traffic and on the wings. On the defensive end, the team played great. Passing lanes were shut down, their rotation to open shooters vastly improved, they denied the ball to key players, mainly Gerald Wallace and Jamal Crawford for a vast majority of the game. They played tight man to man defense causing turnovers and bad shots, the paint was protected fairly well, transition defense was outstanding, and finally, the Hornets played scrappy basketball tonight. They fought every second up to the end, which we will discuss shortly.

So where did it go wrong? Playing to a higher standard, the Hornets still had some glaring issues. I stated earlier that their rotation to open shooters improved, but was not great. Shooters were still left open and driving opportunities were available to the Blazers. This is expected when a solid screen is put down, but during trap defense plays and rotation off of screens and touch passes, our players could not make the proper changes on defense. Furthermore, our pick and roll defense is deplorable. That is a very strong word, but a majority of the points in the paint by the Blazers was due to poor defense against the pick and roll. Our bigs were slow to rotate to the ball and our guards could not fight through the set screen.

Some other issues include play calling, pick and roll offense, free throws, ball security and turnovers! Turnovers lose games! The Hornets had 19 turnovers for 22 points. Their free throws are still lacking. The team shot 17 for 25 from the line. That’s 68%! With better ball security and a little practice from the line, we could have scored 8 extra points and held the Blazers to 72 points, meaning a win! As for play calling, I see no quick fix. Vasquez is maturing, but he needs a role model and you cannot expect a second year player who is actually seeing the floor to take over completely. The pick and roll offense needs to be improved greatly. Ayon and Okafor are great pick and roll players, but our guards need to realize that they should follow the screen and pass to the big man. Let them do their job in the paint. Another detrimental aspect to this game was foul trouble. Aminu and Ayon fell into early foul trouble. You cannot have two role players on the bench for extended minutes. We were fortunate that their foul trouble let Sloan shine.

Well there you have it the good and the bad, so let’s sum it up.

Positive aspects: The Hornets attacked the paint and were aggressive on the boards. They looked like a team that wanted to play and even more, wanted to win. I loved this team tonight. I can only hope they continue this style of play in the future.

What we need to work on: Rotation, turnovers, and finishing the game. The game was all but won in the end, but sloppy plays caused turnovers and left shooters wide open for the win.

Player of the Game: Trevor Ariza. Scoring 23 points, 9 boards, and 5 assist, he was outstanding tonight. He played to his strength which is driving to the basket and taking the hits. His defense is also worth mentioning. He had two steals and contained Wallace to 14 points.

Honorable Mention: The Hornets bench. These no named fellas came in and played tight defense, scored points, and kept it a close game. What more could you ask for from your bench?

Turning Point: Turnovers in the last two minutes of the game. Vasquez held the ball for far too long and the inbound turnover was devastating.

Overall: We still lost tonight, but a glimpse of what the hornets are capable of was very obvious. If they maintain this tempo of play, that win column will rise.

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