This game was just as ugly as the previous Sixer matchup, but the end result was, of course, slightly more palatable.
The most striking aspect of the game was its pace. Each team used just 80 possessions, which falls about 10 possessions short of New Orleans' season average and 12 short of Philadelphia's. The point guards took their time getting to halfcourt, neither offense looked particularly energetic, and the defenses forced numerous attempts very late in the shot clock. In sum, the game went just the way Monty Williams likes it.
The primary reason the Hornets couldn't pull away from another inferior team? Tonight, it was (surprisingly) the defensive rebounding. Philadelphia rebounded more than 35% of its own misses (on the season, Hornet opponents average collecting just 22% of their own misses). Spearheading the effort was the Sixers' starting front line. Andres Nocioni, Marreese Speights, and Elton Brand combined to pull down 8. But Philadelphia also got contributions from its guards. Louis Williams and Jrue Holiday recorded 3 offensive rebounds apiece. In a season where we've often credited the Hornet guards with helping on the glass, it was strange to see them outplayed in that department.
Trevor Ariza's effort especially stands out. He was routinely caught in poor box-out positioning, either too far underneath the hoop, or behind his man entirely. His 3 total rebounds in 36 minutes reflects that. While David West absolutely pounded the offensive glass (finishing with 5 OREBs), he pulled down a sad 3 defensive rebounds. Let's hope this is a minor blip because the Hornet defense is highly, highly predicated on the ability to pull down opponent missed shots.
No one player particularly stood out on the offensive end (in a positive way). Chris Paul missed 7 of his 11 shots, and ceded responsibility to Trevor Ariza far too often in the first half. West led the team with 17 points, but he also missed more shots than he made and committed 4 turnovers. Emeka Okafor clearly had his post moves working tonight, but the team simply didn't go to him very often. Instead, we saw the Trevor Ariza Show for long stretches of both halves; Ariza finished 2 for 11, forcing some truly awful attempts and bricking some easy ones. A game after that highlight reel dunk at Washington, Ariza had a dunk attempt blocked by the bottom of the backboard tonight.
Some final notes:
- The Philly bench backcourt of Lou Williams and Evan Turner combined to go 3 for 25.
- Willie Green had a really positive game on both ends of the floor. I've maintained all year that he's an efficient scorer inside of 10 to 15 feet from the hoop; his release, shot arc, and follow through just seem to be really different from a shorter range. Tonight, he got to the paint multiple times off curls, and he knocked down some decent attempts.
- Marcus Thornton played a limited role, most probably due to Green's productive play. Not many qualms about it as long as the roles are reversed when Thornton has it going and Green doesn't.
- Marco Belinelli did a nice job of creating shots for teammates. Twice, he eluded strong traps near half-court and found an open big near the rim. He finished the night with 4 assists.
- While CP finished with just 5 assists, the team had 22 assists on 31 made field goals.
- The Hornets didn't play a center tonight, opting to use Jason Smith at the 5. I'm not sure if Spencer Hawes' absence affected Monty Williams' decision at all, but Smith at the 5 will not work long term.
- Finally, Quincy Pondexter played 11 productive minutes. He scored 5 points on 2 shots, grabbed 4 rebounds, and didn't make any real mistakes offensively or defensively.