[Bumping cokedawg99's game review again. Also, if you haven't seen it yet, Eric Gordon is having surgery tomorrow and will be out for another six weeks at least. - R]
Hornets Hold Off Fourth Quarter Surge to Defeat Jazz
The eight game slide is finally over for us Hornets fans as the Bees take a win from the Jazz before hitting the road. How did tonight’s game differ from the others? We were able to finish and keep up the energy despite being a depleted team. Aiding those factors was the Utah Jazz, a team not known for their strong defense and high turnover rate. Tonight was very favorable for the injury plagued Hornets. Adding Emeka Okafor to the injury list, the Hornets had a ten man rotation and still managed to capture that elusive big ‘W.’ So let’s break the game down.
What were the keys to winning Monday’s game? First, controlling the paint was top priority. The Jazz are deep and big in their frontcourt and are not afraid to take the ball to the paint. Second, the Hornets needed to control the tempo of the game and limit turnovers. Control the ball, control the paint, and control the game. Those were the keys for tonight’s success.
So let’s start with the Hornets offensive strategy. Taking advantage of the loose defense, the Bees crowded the lane and took the ball to the paint scoring 42, that’s almost half! Led by Chris Kaman, the team drove the lane allowing them an open invitation to the line where they shot a modest 67%. Everyone was hitting except Xavier Henry, but getting in the paint put the Hornets in the bonus early, allowing them to control the tempo. Ball movement and passing seemed to be a big focus for tonight’s game. Greivis Vasquez had 10 assist. Finding the open man in the paint and making plays propelled the team. Vasquez did an excellent job in getting everyone involved in the game. He still has a lot of learning to do, but his distribution is key to a successful team. Work still needs to be done with hands as a lot of players were fumbling the ball. A final highlight to the win was rebounds and turnovers that led to fast break points. The Hornets were out rebounded by the Jazz, but unlike Utah, the Hornets converted offensive rebounds and the fast break points helped put them up big before entering the fourth quarter.
Defensively, the Bees were solid. They locked down the paint, defusing the Jazz big men. Turning to the zone defense was a big surprise. Monty put faith in the Hornets back court. They were able to chase the shooters off the line and close out on most occasions. It did help that the Jazz shot a miserable 28% from the three point line, but the defense did not allow easy jump shots and lay ups. Instead, our front court defense, led by El Martillo, a.k.a. Gustavo Ayon, blocked shots and took control of the paint.
Where did we look sloppy? Transition defense still needs some work. We blocked passing lanes and chased shooters off the line, but in the fourth quarter, the Jazz slashing attack was getting them back into the game. Switching to man to man defense helped the Jazz slowly claw themselves back into the game. Towards the end of the third quarter, the Hornets seemed to get sluggish. They lost the tempo and began trying to trade baskets rather than deny them for the remainder of the game. Most important, the semi fourth quarter collapse derived from excessive fouls that put the Jazz in the bonus and on the line early. This was a side effect of having a ten man rotation. Fatigue set in late in the game and the cost was almost another lost. Hopefully, this will be remedied as players return to the lineup, but we must retain the explosive attacks and lock down defense to push our win streak to two.
So let’s review.
Player of the Game: Chris Kaman. The man showed up tonight and played well. With 27 points and 13 boards, I can only hope he maintains this style of play as players matriculate back into the lineup.
Honorable Mention: Gustavo Ayon. The energy and tenacity this guy brings to the court is uplifting. Sure, he has holes in his game, but at least I know this guy will run the court, chase down loose balls, and fight for the rebound.
The Good: Distribution, interior defense, and getting in the paint were all key factors to breaking the eight game losing streak.
Needs Improvement: A focus on transition defense, ball security, and finishing strong should be added to Monty’s strategy. As players return to the lineup, hopefully someone will stand up and prove themselves as a closer for this team.
In closing, the Hornets now enter a grueling, long, road trip. Out of the Hive, the Bees need to enforce this winning attitude. It all starts with one game and a focus on simple fundamentals to turn a bad season into a good one. Let’s hope they learned something from this well-deserved and much needed win.