The records of the two teams that met in Oakland on Tuesday night (New Orleans 5-19, Golden State 17-8) would indicate two teams moving in opposite directions, with the red-hot Warriors moving their way up the Western Conference standings after an impressive roadtrip in which they went 6-1 and beat the likes of Brooklyn, Atlanta and Miami.
Meanwhile, the Hornets had dropped their eighth straight game and remain in the West cellar. But the Hornets put together one of their best team performances of the year despite the loss, with the team showing resiliency in their late 4th quarter comeback that fell just short and the two rookies having nice games and showing their growth as professional basketball players.
Anthony Davis saw his first start since returning from his ankle injury and played nearly 39 minutes as Monty ramped up his playing time substantially. Davis dropped his third career double-double with 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds and was a perfect 7-for-7 from the foul line.
Austin Rivers had a very solid and efficient night; 12 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with 4 assists in 31 minutes. While both of our rookies have had their struggles this season (especially on defense) they've continued to show improvement, primarily on offense where Davis seems to expand his repertoire on a per game basis,hitting a nice turnaround jumper over Lee to go with a couple put-back dunks and a strong and-1 finish in the 4th that tied the game.
Rivers continues to be more aggressive as the games go on, not afraid to take the open shot (which he passes on way too much for my liking) and being assertive in driving the ball when he has a favorable matchup. He showed the Tony Parker teardrop off the glass in the 1st half and hit a big jumper late in the 4th that pulled the Hornets within 3.
The only criticism of Rivers I have from this game was that at times he resorted back to being passive when he got the ball on the perimeter; the offense actually runs better at times when he's the creator and Vasquez can capitalize off his playmaking instead of vice-versa. Speaking of Greivis, lets look at the rest of the squad;
- Vasquez had another nice line tonight (20 points, 11 assists and 5 boards) and played within himself for the most part. He still accrued 4 turnovers, but I didn't notice any major transgressions onhispart throughout the game. He had a really nice little run starting at the 6:30 minute mark of the 4th when he went 3-pointer, steal, layup and sweet dime to McGuire for a wide-open dunk in succession to pull New Orleans within 5. At times you really wish Gordon would come back already to we can move Vasquez to that role of 1st guard off the bench where I still feel he'd be a perfect fit. For now we'll have to still take the good with the bad with Greivis, and for the most part tonight he was good.
- Anderson played the most minutes of all the Hornets (40) despite coming off the bench with AD moving back into the starting lineup. He managed to somehow drop 28 points in this one (why does it feel like we say that a lot about Ryno? Maybe he should be nicknamed "The Silent Assassin" instead of Gordon) despite going 8-of-22 from the field and 4-of-14 from downtown. Even when he didn't have his shooting stroke Anderson found a way to get to the line (where he went a perfect 8-for-8) and got buckets for an offensively-challenged team still waiting for their primary offensive option to return. He did struggle on the boards (0 defensive rebounds is not gonna get it done) but this guy is seriously a joy to watch every night.
- Everyone else: Lopez had a couple nice buckets early but only played 16 minutes, snagged one measly rebound and lost playing time to Lance Thomas. Dominic McGuire has emerged as Monty's new favorite wing, getting more minutes than Aminu, Henry and Miller combined (26 to 3) and relegating those guys to benchwarming duty. He does some nice things for this team, plays solid defense, rebounds ok for his build and is definitely a hustler out there, much like his cohort at small forward tonight Lance Thomas (who got the start there).
- With Thomas and McGuire both establishing themselves as "Monty guys" who play hard every night and do the little things, you have to wonder if Dealing Dell is working the phones to find a taker for Aminu and/or Henry and their expiring deals. Roberts and Mason saw some run off the bench also, but neither did anything to change my thinking on their roles ( end of bench guys who are playing more minutes than they should, as are a lot of guys on this team).
It was nice to see Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry (both Hornets last year who I really liked and wanted to bring back) playing well for Golden State and leading their "bench mob" along with the rookie Draymond Green from Michigan State who's also been really good for them. Jack brings a stabilizing presence to that backcourt, something this team sorely needs and could've held on to, but Demps and Monty wanted to give Rivers and Vasquez the reins this season, so Jack became unnecessary. Landry is a guy who puts up 15 and 8 a night despite being undersized at his position, and gives them a nice option on offense if David Lee gets in foul trouble.
The Warriors core of Curry, Thompson, Barnes, and Lee has played really well this season and they're still waiting for Andrew Bogut to come back from injury to complete their starting unit. They are another example for the Hornets what a good team can be once the right pieces are put together and can stay healthy and on the court together.
Hopefully the Hornets can learn from this loss and use it as a stepping stone to bigger and brighter days ahead. They showed great resiliency in making a game of this; the next step is finishing the game and completing the comeback to get the win. Something tells me with a healthy Eric Gordon (and 100% Anthony Davis), Anderson and Davis starting games together, Rivers continuing to grow as a point guard and a legitimate small forward (Chase Budinger or Wilson Chandler anybody?), the future Hor....I mean Pelicans will do just that.
Next up is out good buddy CP3 and his pesky Clippers. Here's hoping we can replicate that victory from a few weeks ago, even if the hero from that game (Jason Smith and his huge night) is watching from the sidelines.