In the first eight minutes of the game, the Hornets jumped to a 21-10 advantage over the Hawks. Greivis Vasquez hit his first three shots and the rest of the team played better than their counterparts on both ends of the floor. For the rest of the half, Anthony Davis patrolled the paint well gathering 9 rebounds and 3 blocks, Vasquez distributed soundly for 7 assists and Ryan Anderson's shot looked good netting him 13 points.
With the many positives and a score of 50-44 in our favor at halftime, fans figured the home 3rd quarter doldrums might finally stay away. Nope, not a chance as Atlanta thoroughly dominated the quarter beating us down 28-14. Josh Smith ambushed us for 10 points but the Hornets largely hurt themselves with 4 turnovers and 5 missed freethrows.
In the 4th quarter, we made several runs but weren't able to string together enough stops defensively. In addition, the referee's stingier than usual whistle prevented Eric Gordon and a number of his teammates getting to the line. Consequently, a number of contested shots went unrewarded.
1. Big Lineups. Several times during the game, Monty went big. In the first half, the combo of Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis and Jason Smith didn't impress but this was probably due to Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts running the point (1 charge, 2 blocked shots against). In the 2nd half, Anderson, Davis and Robin Lopez fared better getting some good easy looks. Defensively, there were issues but this style appears better suited than Monty's 3 guard experiments of the past. We can't seem to get out on the shooters regardless so at least theoretically we should give ourselves an edge on the boards.
2. Rebounding. Against a team that grabs rebounds at similar rates, New Orleans had 47 boards to Atlanta's 39. Davis led the way with 13 but a number of Hornets chipped in including Vasquez with 9, Anderson with 6 and Lopez/Mason (!?!) with 5. One clear way we could improve our chances of winning is seizing the advantage on the glass. Although our rebound rate (49.4%) is ranked in the bottom half of the NBA, it's been trending upwards. In our previous 3 games, we've cracked the top 5 with a 53.3% rate.
3. Greivis Vasquez. Perhaps Vasquez has his eyes set on another NBA Player of the Week. Our general posted another savory line: 17 points (7-15), 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 1 block, 1 three and only 2 turnovers. Without a doubt, he's put aside all talk of perhaps starting Austin Rivers in his place once Gordon rejoins the starting lineup.
1. Ryan Anderson's Defense. Hard to slam a guy who put up 23 efficient points tonight, but on the non-scoring side of the floor, his contributions were weak. Whomever he was matched up against (Horford, Pachulia or Smith), they all had a pretty easy time putting the ball into the hoop. There were a couple of times though that Monty Williams could have alleviated the problem. Instead of having Davis guard Tolliver on the perimeter, why couldn't Anderson have been assigned the task?
2. Freethrow Shooting. 4 of 12. Both Davis and Gordon made only 1 of 4 and Vasquez missed 2 of his own. I've already mentioned the Hornets had a difficult time getting to the line, but would it have mattered that much? Perhaps the refs were tired of seeing us clang attempts off the rim so they were looking out for the team's overall FT%.
3. Eric Gordon's Rust. After our previous game, it was easy to dismiss Gordon needing adjustment time in acclimating back to his teammates and the pace of the NBA. However, tonight, he looked like a guy who will need a week or two in getting his game fully on track.
Up next, we travel to Houston tomorrow to take on the high scoring Rockets. Considering Eric Gordon is on a minute's limit, I wouldn't be surprised if he's also not allowed to play in back-to-backs. Big challenge indeed but nevertheless GEAUX HORNETS!