With Emeka Okafor out and the Suns' three point stroke on, the Hornets dropped a second straight game against subpar opposition.
It would be dumb to make light of losing Emeka Okafor. We've harped on his importance to the team's defense all year long, and tonight, we were provided the opportunity to see quite literally what his absence would mean. Phoenix carved open the New Orleans interior before kicking it out to wide open perimeter shooters. Credit the Suns' impeccable ball movement; they have great confidence in their shooters, and they know that's how they win ball games.
But aside from Okafor? The last two games have proved that the Hornet offense is so, so flawed. It's probably less imaginative now than it has been all season. The Belinelli and Ariza back-door cuts we saw in the season's first two months? Gone. David West's elbow post with cut action from the weak side? Gone. The strong side-weak side flip into the weak wing three? Gone. Sure, New Orleans racked up a couple of nifty assists (primarily from West), but the offense is back to its old, incredibly stagnant ways. For multiple possessions in a row in both the first and second halves, New Orleans ran repeated plays for David Andersen and Jason Smith.
The Hornets went up against a joke of a defense (111.7 points allowed per 100 possessions) and came away looking the clowns.
Defense cost us this game just as much as our poor offense, but again, I wouldn't read too much into this game. Okafor means an incredible amount to us on that end. Sure, the perimeter rotations were far from crisp tonight, and Ariza has been burned repeatedly the past two nights. Those are things we should largely expect to stabilize based on past performance. Onto the notes:
- Marcus Thornton brings a much needed, new dimension to the offense. Willie Green has also been playing very well on both ends of the floor. It's nice to see both guys contributing at the same time. Thornton also did a tremendous job on the defensive glass tonight (10 defensive boards off the bench).
- Jarrett Jack... oh, Jarrett Jack.
- With Marcin Gortat, the Hornets experienced a similar situation as they did with Tyreke Evans last night- a player in early foul trouble that absolutely dominated a quarter (or half) despite said foul trouble. It's sad that it happened once, and even more so that it happened back to back.
- Marco Belinelli was thoroughly awful on both ends of the floor. I think it's almost time to consider moving him out of a starting role, but I shudder to think of what that portends for the second unit.
- The first three quarters of the game were played at Phoenix's pace (71 total possessions) before the game slowed to a crawl in the fourth.
- The end was mildly exciting, eh?