Hornets, inexplicably by most teams' standards but not by theirs, lose.

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I don't even know.

If this keeps up, Monty Williams is going to be fired.

The Hornets led 102-88 about halfway into the fourth and through an absolutely breathtaking combination of defensive ineptitude, execution failure, and borderline imbecilic lineup deployment, they trailed 108-102 just six minutes later. 20 straight points, a 24 point lead wiped out within a single quarter.

If this keeps up, Monty Williams should be fired.

Let's start with Williams' steadfast refusal to learn from his previous missteps in benching Anthony Davis in fourth quarters. Tonight, he took it to its absolute, most idiotic apex: sitting Davis and forcing a ridiculous Robin Lopez-Dwight Howard matchup because Davis "doesn't weigh enough."

The Lakers repeatedly ran pick and rolls on Lopez to force him on to Kobe Bryant, absolutely destroying the Hornets with the play in the final quarter. It's easy to say that Kobe hit some off-balance shots he might have missed, but when they're coming against the flailing defense of Robin Lopez (and that's not a knock on Lopez whatsoever), by design, you've more or less lost your right to complaint.

Williams' lack of flexibility and refusal to consider adjustments staring literally everyone else in the face at this stage are appalling. It's doubly frustrating given the improvement Anthony Davis has made in recent weeks on the defensive end, especially in terms of rotations and help challenges. Williams' decision to bench Davis killed New Orleans on the offensive end as well; the ridiculously ambitious dunk Robin Lopez had stuffed back into his nose down the stretch could really have only been finished by one player on the team, one that, conveniently, happened to be buried on the bench for absolutely no reason.

(And post-game, we got this note from the Times-Pic: "After the game, Davis' father, Anthony Davis Sr., was seen marching out of the family room near the Hornets' locker room at the Arena, visibly upset and shouting loudly into a phone about his son not playing for nearly the entire fourth quarter." Absolutely justifiably, of course.)

The coaching staff's inability to draw up a high-leverage play that doesn't result in Greivis Vasquez chucking up a wild prayer less than half of the time is similarly distressing. As terrible as the Hornets' record is, there's still a ton of offensive talent on this team between Vasquez' vision, Ryan Anderson's shooting, and Anthony Davis' ridiculous all-around ability. Instead, one of those three is now regularly, randomly removed from the equation entirely, and the other two are very often reduced to the same obvious, sterile wing rub-screens that require a mere modicum of film study for a defense to contain.

I mentioned it last month, but I'm really not sure what Monty Williams brings to this team from a game planning and strategy perspective. In many ways, that really pains me to write. The job he did in holding together a rudderless, talentless, ownerless team was just absolutely tremendous. The hand he's been dealt this year -- injuries everywhere, nonexistent depth, a very, very, very mediocre Eric Gordon -- has not been an easy one to play at all. The defense he assembled and directed during the first half of Chris Paul's final season in New Orleans was simply masterful.

And that last one is what gives me pause, makes me want so desperately to hand wave away the 27th ranked defense, the bizarre insistence on benching the team's best players, on playing them out of sync and rhythm. It's why I haven't given up on Monty Williams just yet. It's easy to forget he's still an extremely young coach, one that admittedly set our expectations relatively high early on in his career.

But at the same time, he's making the same mistakes again and again and again at an alarming rate. I just don't know.


Final - 3.6.2013 1 2 3 4 Total
Los Angeles Lakers 28 20 27 33 108
New Orleans Hornets 28 39 26 9 102

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