The Hornets impressively kept it close, but their lack of size and horribly unimaginative offense cost them down the stretch.
This game juxtaposed good qualities with bad ones in a rather stark manner. New Orleans never put together an extended stretch (including offense and defense) of great basketball, but they didn't string together many horrible possessions either. So in that spirit, I'll structure this recap to reflect how the game unfolded.
Good: Aaron Gray
Gray pulled down 10 rebounds overall, including 4 on the offensive end. New Orleans did a great job on the glass as a team- 28% on the offensive end and nearly 80% on the defensive side- and Gray played a huge role in that. Moreover, he filled the paint well on offense, scoring 10 points on 7 shots on feeds from teammates. As a final touch, I thought his double teams of players on the elbows were great. He made himself big, extended his arms, and while L.A. (primarily Gasol) punished us anyways, the Lakers scored significantly fewer points directly at the rim than one might have anticipated.
Bad: Monty Williams' decision to bench Gray for the final 4 minutes
The logic behind the decision was obvious- he wanted to leave David Andersen on the floor to knock down shots. But focusing the offense on Chris Paul and leaving Gray for his rebounding ability would have been the far better option. Obviously, conditioning issues come into question, so it's hard to unequivocally bash Williams. In any case, the Hornets' defensive rebounding in the final few minutes was terrible and cost us a chance at the game.
Good: Chris Paul's 3rd Quarter
13 points on 5 shots, 6 assists, including a pair of ridiculous threes to close the quarter and give New Orleans the lead. He absolutely took over.
Bad: Chris Paul's 4th Quarter
2 points on 2 shot attempts, 1 garbage time assist. Sadly, Paul's fourth quarter was more of a continuance of a season wide trend than an anomalistic occurence.
Good: David West's 1st Half
7 for 10 shooting, 9 rebounds, 14 points
Bad: David West's 2nd Half
1 for 6 shooting, 3 rebounds, 2 points
Good and Bad: Marcus Thornton
MT5 alternated between excellent and abysmal possessions, both on the offensive and defensive end. He followed seemingly every rhythm jumper with horrid, forced shots with defenders in his face and plenty of seconds left on the shot clock. His final line- 6 for 12, 14 points- is largely a positive one, but the number of possessions he ended abruptly with poor decision making is troubling. On the defensive end, he enjoyed individual success at times (including a couple of well-defended Kobe Bryant possessions late in the 4th) but his well documented troubles with fighting through screens showed themselves as well.
Bad: Willie Green
Green's overall offensive game (1 for 6) was poor, but it was two possessions that really stood out to me as particularly egregious. The first was the offensive possession immediately following Chris Paul's made three at 3:12 remaining in the third. The Hornets ran a very similar play, flipping the court. This time, the ball kicked out to Green on the left wing with Paul waiting, wide open on the right wing, for a second straight three. Green had swung the ball from right to left mere seconds ago, so the left to right swing seemed a formality- get it to an in rhythm Paul, let him hit the three. Instead, Green faked the pass, tried to cut to his own left, and had a terrible floater rejected in the lane.
The second occurred two possession later. Instead of waiting for Paul to set up a play (both he and David Andersen were red hot at that point), Green forced himself down the right hand side and had another poor shot swatted by Ron Artest. The Lakers turned this right around into a three point basket for Kobe Bryant.
Good: David Andersen
He couldn't hit two huge threes down the stretch, but he very literally carried the Hornet offense through large stretches of the second half. That Monty Williams' offense relied on a journeyman 31 year old big man to sink multiple long range jumpers to merely stay competitive speaks tremendously to Williams' poor offensive game planning, but that takes nothing away from Andersen. He's done everything he's been asked to do and more. Not only did he make his shots tonight, he also picked up 2 offensive and 4 defensive rebounds in his 20 minutes.
Bad: Derek Fisher's Flop
Nobody else in the NBA does the reach and flop like Derek Fisher. With the game on the line, he reached in on Paul as CP approached the three point line. Paul naturally made contact with the reaching Fisher, and D-Fish caromed backwards as though he had just been shot. Game over.
- Sasha Pavlovic was a pleasant surprise. His quick cuts both with and without the ball were rather similar to those of early season Marco Belinelli.
- Belinelli continued his shooting slump, but he did connect on 3 of his 6 shots from distance.
- I haven't made much mention of the refs yet, but feel free to fill in the blanks yourselves. In possibly related news, Los Angeles shot 27 free throws to our... 4.