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Warriors 109, Hornets 104: Late Collapse Leads to Another Embarrassing Loss

The Hornets got away with terrible defense for three quarters. They improbably found an even lower gear in the fourth quarter and threw the game away.

Let's start at the end.

1:30 left in the game. Hornets down 2. Full shot clock. Chris Paul has the ball at the top of the key, isolated on Dorell Wright. He fakes a move, pulls short, seemingly gives up on the play, and passes off to Willie Green on the wing. Green gets away with a travel on his first step and chucks a wild shot off the backboard (that, needless to say, misses).

A minute later, Hornets down 4. Chris Paul isolated at the top of the key, again on Dorell Wright. He beats Wright going right, angles around the paint, and kicks out to Willie Green for a three. Brick.

Yes, we can blame Green for those plays. A lot of people will. But that's who Willie Green is as a basketball player. He's a highly inefficient player who will shoot the ball whenever he sees fit. If you give him an open three, he probably won't make it, but he definitely will take it. If you give him the ball on the wing, he will drive erratically and shoot even more erratically. It's on the coaches to recognize that. It's on Chris Paul to recognize that. Neither entity has done so successfully this season, and neither entity successfully did so tonight.

It was terrible coaching on Monty Williams' part, and it was terrible decision making late in the game by Chris Paul.

Keep in mind: I'm not saying that the Hornets lost the game because of the final two minutes alone. The team played unbelievably poor defense all game long, Chris Paul uncharacteristically struggled from the line, and Emeka Okafor was in foul trouble through the second half. Terrible defense was what lost this game for New Orleans. But ultimately, Williams' misguided rotations and Chris Paul's were what clinched the victory for Golden State. The Hornets' poor play in the fourth quarter simply exposed a recurring issue that's plagued the team all season- inefficient shot and play distribution. 

There are those that will say that we shouldn't expect too many possessions to go through Chris Paul. The claim is that it would tire him out and that we can't expect the offense to be a one man show. I'd counter the "tiring" claim by noting the fact that Chris Paul does a great deal of running, cutting, and sprinting when playing off the ball. If anything, he appears to exert himself less when he has the ball in his hands at the top of the key. And as far as the "one man show" argument? The pendulum has swung much too far in the opposite direction. The Hornets' two best players- Paul and West- aren't being utilized nearly enough. For instance, check the plays Monty Williams called down the stretch of this game.

Note: I'm excluding transition possessions or broken play possessions, including Ariza's breakaway layup, Green's layup off a Chris Paul fastbreak, and Ariza's putback on his own missed free throw. The purpose of this is more to see what set plays Monty Williams called for down the stretch.

5:43 (Hornets down 7): Hornets set up a three for Trevor Ariza. Bricks the shot.

4:54 (Hornets down 7): Hornets set up a deep post catch for Okafor. West throws the ball away.

4:37 (Hornets down 7): Chris Paul gives the ball up with 12 on shot clock to Green on left wing. Green travels.

3:56 (Hornets down 10): Chris Paul gives the ball up with 9 on shot clock to Green. Green gets away with a travel, exposes the ball to Dorell Wright who ties him up. Refs inexplicably call a foul, Green gets two free throws.

3:02 (Hornets down 6): Hornets set up a deep catch for Trevor Ariza. Ariza puts in a nifty, high percentage flip shot.

1:51 (Hornets down 2): Chris Paul dribbles around, 30 feet away from the hoop. Realizes he's got nothing, flips to Belinelli with 1 on the shot clock. Marco misses a wild 21 foot fadeaway.

1:31 (Hornets down 2): Chris Paul gives the ball up with 11 on shot clock to Green on left wing. Green attempts to drive, fires wild shot off backboard, misses.

0:53 (Hornets down 2): Chris Paul drives right, kicks up top to a wide open Green for three. Green bricks the shot.

Hopefully that was as painful for you to read as it was for me to compile. 

Let's recap shall we? From the 5:43 mark to the 0:53 mark of the 4th quarter, the Hornets executed eight set plays. On those eight possessions*, the Hornets scored four points. Four! The average NBA team scores 9 points on every 8 defensive Warrior possessions. Our performance down the stretch was just absolutely abysmal, and it's no secret as to why. Check out the distributions. Out of those 8 critical possessions, Willie Green used four, Trevor Ariza used two, Marco Belinelli used one, and one was designed for Emeka Okafor.

*another quick note: a "possession" is reset every time the ball switches hands. Multiple "plays" can happen on the same "possession" given offensive rebounds, etc.

Put another way? I need to put this next point in bold because it's that important.

Over the eight critical offensive possessions that decided this game, not a single play was designed for Chris Paul or David West.

Think about that. Monty Williams promised potential changes (esp. with the bench) after the game, including the fact that he'll be giving Aaron Gray some minutes and a closer look in the near future. That's all well and good. But until the coaches and the offense at large realizes where its bread is buttered, it will all ultimately be an exercise in futility.

That's all I've got for this one. Have a good night, folks.