It is true. As usnfish exclaimed in the gamethread, at least for three quarters, the Hornets did not suck at basketball tonight. And that was enough to send the Charlotte Bobcats to an 18th consecutive defeat.
From the moment Eric Gordon stepped on the floor, it was pretty obvious how superlative his creativity and scoring ability remains despite the layoff.
It's useful to think of Gordon's offensive game in three separate phases as we track his return to full strength, assuming he can string consecutive games together at this point without having to rest his knee.
The first one's his ability to enter the paint, get to the rim, and draw contact. It's obviously something he's excelled and grown at throughout his career, with his FTA/36 mark progressing from 4.7 to 4.8 to 5.9 to 7.5. For reference, prime Kobe regularly hovered in the 8s while Dwyane Wade hit a flat 10.0 in back to back seasons in 2006 and 2007. It's a stat that for guards is very indicative of both lateral and vertical explosiveness; Gordon posted a rate 20.2 tonight which is, needless to say, an excellent start regardless of opponent.
The second area's his general shooting ability, probably the least concerning aspect of his game for now. While severe knee problems can alter the form of a jumpshot tremendously, Gordon's shot form looked essentially identical to what it's been in previous years. The 5 of 13 from the field start isn't spectacular, but I'd be surprised if his shot randomly deserted him due to the layoff.
And finally, there's Gordon's creativity. He's always been a very decent passer, notably posting a 21% assist percentage in his final year with the Clippers (a very high mark given how many shots he was attempting). With this particular Hornets team, he has the opportunity to utilize that creativity at very turn. As Oleh mentioned during the game, he's arguably the team's best point guard right now.
Tonight, he posted 7 assists with 2 turnovers, and the right elbow pick and roll to corner Ryan Anderson three -- worked to perfection against the Bobcats -- will surely become a staple. The possible variations on this are legitimately mouthwatering. Top of the key Gordon/Anderson pick and pop with a cutting Anthony Davis from the weakside? Against most of the league's teams, that's a borderline unstoppable play on paper.
Questions about the health of his knee as well as doubts about his commitment will linger in the heads of some fans, and rightfully so. Regardless, Eric Gordon appears to be back and going by his debut, he hasn't missed a beat.
Some other thoughts:
- Defensive rotations remain extremely poor. Charlotte picked the Hornets apart in the first half with the second quarter ranking among the worst I've ever seen the team play. By the same token, Al-Farouq Aminu's absence is still mystifying to me.
- Roger Mason Jr. was really the catalyst of the second half comeback, and it came at the expense of Austin Rivers' minutes. Rivers was very passive in the first half, airballing a three, and barely catching the rim on a 5 footer. I simply can't see this being an extended benching, but he's definitely hit some sort of wall.
- Dominic McGuire and Lance Thomas played a combined 27 minutes, posting a cumulative line of 4 points on 33% shooting, and one (ONE) [ONE] rebound. This is beyond stupid at this point.
- Greivis Vasquez continued to make boneheaded decisions with the ball, fueling a number of Charlotte fast breaks (Brian Roberts was guilty of this too in 6 pretty horrid minutes), but he also made a number of great plays and passes on the offensive end.
|Final - 12.29.2012||1||2||3||4||Total|
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Head to Rufus on Fire for the Charlotte take.