A third quarter scoring collapse doomed the Hornets to a loss against a close contender in the lottery standings.
The game started off decently enough, with both Eric Gordon and Anthony Davis getting off to good starts. Davis' night stings in particular because he looked poised to have an extremely productive night on offense. The end product -- 16 points on 8 shots in 16 minutes -- was still relatively ridiculous, but foul trouble curtailed what could have been a career evening.
But though it ended bittersweet, Davis' aggressiveness in the first quarter against the defense of Emeka Okafor and Nene Hilario in the first quarter was phenomenal. Both those defenders ranked among the league's best interior options just a couple years ago, and neither had much of a chance against Davis' array of dives to the hoop, screen and roll game, or work in the deep post. At 20 years old now, he's just longer, quicker, more energetic, and, increasingly of late, more anticipative of positioning than the majority of big men he faces. Anthony Davis has, quite simply, arrived.
Eric Gordon's play again dropped off considerably in the second half. As usnfish mentioned in the game thread, it's entirely reasonable to pinpoint conditioning as a potential underlying cause for this. Gordon's explosiveness certainly seems to be on full display in first halves -- he pushes for fast breaks more than anyone else on the team and has continued to do an excellent job with converting one-on-two or even one-on-three breaks into layups or free throws.
As longtime readers of the blog will know, I'm not a huge believer in the idea of "clutch." It probably exists on some level, but random variation and players' natural talent levels likely accounts for most "clutch" narratives we see. In any case, if Gordon's late game fades continue, I'd be much more concerned with his health and stamina than with any sort of inherent flaw as a basketball player.
The biggest story of the game was, of course, John Wall's ability to hit jumpers. Wall hit 9 of 12 (75%) shots beyond 10 feet; from that range, he shoots 31% (61/195) on the season.
Monty Williams alluded to this after the game: "We just let him shoot shots like he couldn't make them, and he made us pay." It's a point I understand, and no NBA guard can be allowed the space New Orleans generally cedes to shooters this season. But at the same time, while Williams' thought that the Hornets let Wall shoot like he couldn't make shots is an accurate one, there's also the fact that Wall can't usually make those shots.
As the stats show, he makes those shots to the tune of about 30% shooting. Which is awful to the point where it's justifiable to design a defense that cedes the jumper to the player. So I'll call this one a wash. A full absolution can't really exist when an opponent is allowed to go 12 for 15, and that's doubly true when the defense has been terrible all year to begin with. But it'd be a bit silly to overlook luck on a night like this.