The Dallas defense executed down the stretch, ours didn't, and just like that, the winning streak is over.
It feels especially bad since this was an easily winnable game. After a rough first quarter, the Hornets clamped down in the second and third periods to take a 7 point lead into the fourth (and led by double digits). But credit Dallas' stellar defensive performance in the final quarter. Even though New Orleans battled back to tie after the Mavs took the lead late, they couldn't pull it through.
It's easy to second guess a number of the decisions down the stretch- Ariza's two missed threes, the smaller lineup down the stretch, and the final inbounds play. But I find it difficult to overly criticize the game Monty Williams coached tonight. Many of the decisions that didn't work tonight were ones that worked earlier this year.
On to the bullets:
- This was just one game and our first loss, but I'm ticked nonetheless. I hope the team is as well. The Hornets gave this game away in the fourth quarter.
- Chris Paul played an awful second half- 2 pts, 4 asts, on 1 for 5 shooting, and plenty of forced misses. This came after his 20-5-4 first half. Dallas' strategy in the second half was to switch J.J. Barea onto him and crowd him every time he got into the paint. Barea did a great job (Paul got away with quite a few offensive fouls that should've been called on him) and bottled him up.
- New Orleans committed way, way too many silly fouls tonight. They continually put guys like Dirk and Terry on the line on perimeter fouls. Dallas hadn't been getting to the line well this year, and they weren't that aggressive tonight. But we handed them free throw after free throw.
- The defense on Jason Terry was inexplicably poor. Everybody knows that he runs off screen to get his shots. Our defenders (usually Green and Bayless) got caught on every single screen.
- Emeka Okafor was really poor from the field. He missed many of the flip ins that he's been making this year, and he finished just 2 for 9.
- The play call on the final play was extremely disappointing. If you remember back to two years ago, New Orleans faced a similar situation against Dallas. They were down three and had 0.7 seconds on the clock. Byron Scott drew up an excellent play to free Peja Stojakovic in the corner, Peja drilled the shot, and New Orleans cruised in overtime. Tonight, everybody just stood around before Ariza meekly tossed it to... Emeka Okafor. The Hornets still had one timeout remaining at that point too. That play call left as a bitter a taste in my mouth as the Hornets' porous defense.