That was BenDerDonDat's question during the game thread, one we unfortunately don't have an immediate answer for.
Teams like the Hornets aren't really supposed to exist at the professional level. A terrible basketball team, despite all of the hustle in the world, should get blown out. With regularity.
And it's not that this current side isn't terrible. I haven't seen a team make these types of turnovers, consistently, in a long while. The same players moving on screens, the same guys randomly choosing to pick up their dribble at half court, the same Aminu being freshly introduced to "dribbling" on a nightly basis. Assuming the first few teams the franchise put together get a pass, this is arguably the worst edition of the Hornets ever.
But for yet another game, the Hornets went up against a strong team (one that's supposedly the favorite to win the conference) and kept it close. It's an indictment of how awful Russell Westbrook was certainly, but it also fits within the larger Hornets schema - these guys won't get blown out often. They simply rebound too well (collecting 86% of all available defensive rebounds tonight) and fight too hard on defense (holding OKC to 3 points/100 poss. below their season average) to allow their utterly despicable offense to dictate final score lines.
It's what makes the Hornets a rather unique terrible team. After tonight, New Orleans pulls within a half game of the league's worst record, but the two teams ahead of them, Charlotte and Washington, boast efficiency differentials of negative 11.9 and 9.1. The Hornets are at negative 4.9, only the seventh worst mark in the league. Whether this portends good or bad things for the future is your call. Some game notes after the jump.
- Gustavo Ayon is really pretty good. His one mistake - traveling late in the fourth quarter - actually came at the end of a nice up fake sequence where he simply ran out of moves to string together. He otherwise hit 8 of his 10 shots, showing a very nice back-to-basket game and mid-range jumper, two things he hasn't yet had the opportunity to showcase.
- Both benches were very instrumental to the final outcome. The Thunder's second unit display was more of a one man show, with James Harden scoring 18 points on just 5 field goal attempts; the Hornets' was more balanced, with Ayon's 16, Carl Landry's 15, and Al-Farouq Aminu's 11.
- Speaking of the bench, Chris Kaman was a fully healthy scratch for New Orleans. A trade could be on the cards, and Paul Sondhi outlined a few options yesterday.
- I just have zero idea what to think of Aminu. He can't dribble. This is a fact. His best drive to the hoop came as a result of him losing the ball mid-dribble, thereby confusing his defender. He's more of a trainwreck with the ball than Julian Wright. But at the same time.. that step back fadeaway. His touch around the hoop. His activity on the glass. These are things that are just as real as his total inability to dribble a basketball, and they shone a bit more brightly than normally tonight.
- Marco Belinelli was repeatedly burned off the ball defensively and missed almost everything. Xavier Henry's debut didn't see him earn too many minutes, but I don't think an immediate switching of the two players' roles would be overly drastic. Trevor Ariza had a similarly horrific offensive line (1 for 8), not converting his first basket until late in the fourth quarter
- Late game rotations were again weird, but at this point, the Hornets are more an on-court science experiment than an actual basketball team.
- Oh yeah, Eric Gordon was supposed to be signed today, or something?