The story of the Hornets' win tonight begins with defense. The matchup looked lopsided on paper - the Hornets' 27th-ranked defense against the Nuggets' 2nd-ranked offense - but the Hornets rode an active defense and strong defensive rebounding to a dominant defensive performance.
The defensive rebounding was a team effort, more so than usual. From Ryan Anderson to Brian Roberts, the entire defense kept Denver off the offensive boards. The Hornets had plenty of chances to work on their rebounding, since the defense held Denver to just under 38% from the field. The rotations looked snappy, and while there was occasionally some confusion on pick and roll defense, it certainly seemed like the Hornets, at least for a night, had figured out how to play half-court defense.
The Nuggets are constantly looking to get out and run, and the Hornets did a great team job of limiting the fast break opportunities. Part of this was due to the team shooting over 48% from the field and part was due to the absence of Ty Lawson, but even though the Hornets were incredibly active on the offensive boards, they consistently hustled back to set up the half-court defense.
For the offensive end, let's go to some individual bullets:
- Good gravy, Brian Roberts. The statistics are overwhelming: 13 points, 18 assists, 3 turnover performance in his first career NBA start at point guard. Roberts just looked completely in control of the entire game. Far from being overwhelmed by the pressure, Roberts rose to the occasion, getting into the paint with ease, always finding the open man, and taking care of the ball.
- Darius Miller's performance deserves a strong second mention. 6 for 7 shooting and 4 of 5 from beyond the arc for 16 points counts as Miller's breakout performance. Let's see if this earns him some significant minutes in the last 11 games of the season.
- I'm constantly amazed by the offensive learning curve of Anthony Davis - he seems like he's now equally comfortable and dangerous on the pick and roll as he is on the pick and pop.
- In the absence of Vasquez and Gordon, Ryan Anderson became the go-to option on offense. He was the bail-out option at the end of many a failed possession, and even so, he was able to score 23 points on 22 shots. His efficiency might have taken a hit, but he was able to soak up a lot of possessions.
- Roger Mason appears to be finally out of Monty's DoghouseSM. He's on the court to shoot, and he did just that today, going 4 for 5 from beyond the arc, just like Miller.
- Lou Amundson's rapid-fire block performance in the first half was pretty awesome.
- Robin Lopez's bizarre defensive rebound to failed outlet pass to shooting foul sequence was completely inexplicable. Lopez played well on defense, though.