Let's get something out of the way -- Rohan is right. Too many factors come into play for a game to be fully decided by Monty Williams.
The Hornets allowed 10-22 from 3 from Golden State. That's a start. Getting beaten on the FT battle is a part of it as well. And it wasn't just GS getting to the line via foul calls -- it's the fact that a team that's ranked 8th in the entire league in FT%, converting 77.9% of them made just 56% from the stripe. Yikes.
But yes, Monty's rotation patterns are really weird. I can understand not subbing the starters back in when the opposing team makes a run to cut our lead/make the lead larger -- I can chalk that up to "teaching". I can even forgive the occasional bogus play calling -- sometimes, you just can't find the right call to play to bust out of the funk.
I can even forgive the "favoritism" issue -- one that's been apparent not just with Rivers but with Jason Smith as well. Both players have clearly entrenched themselves deeply into Monty Williams' rotation because they give 100% "effort" (Most nights they do).
What I can't forgive is talking about "effort" as an important aspect of playing time allocation and allowing a player like Jason Smith -- who was playing below his usual energy level and was playing terribly (evidenced by the 0 (yes, Z-E-R-O) on the rebounding column). If you're going to talk about "effort" especially for a big man, then the rebounding column is simply one of the best way to measure it.
When effort doesn't particularly amount to anything substantial (as with Rivers) or when it isn't there (as with Smith today) then something is wrong.
The weird thing is that I'm not even livid with Monty because there was so much to be pleased with in this game.
To the bullet points:
- Ok, I'll say it -- Austin Rivers played really well. He made four shots at the rim. Four! That's more than he's made in the past 6 games (even counting his 3 FG game against BOS). His shot attempts still looked weird -- 2 high arching floaters, one bank shot and another contorting layup that looked more "eh, whatever I'm just gonna throw this ball in the direction of the hoop" than an actual controlled layup. Back to back acceptable games now.
- I'd just like to add one more point -- with Roberts out due to a sprained ankle, we saw Rivers play the point for a good portion of the game. So far, so good.
- Also, did anyone notice when Vasquez was checking in, Rivers automatically assumed it was him and Vasquez was like "Oh man, no no. It's him" /proceeds to point at Mason. That was hilarious.
- Don't know if anybody has mentioned this but Roger Mason is hitting 68% of his 3 PT attempts for the month of January. That's twice Rivers' FG%. (Goes to underscore how bad Rivers is shooting but Mason, right?). The guy is just automatic from downtown until somebody figures him out.
- ANTHONY FREAKING DAVIS
- Anthony Davis probably had his best game since returning from a stress reaction - good shot selection, awesome weakside defense and his defense on Carl Landry -- a power player -- was incredible. He was aggressive but not to a fault and he used his length incredibly well to front Landry and force the pass out. And that dunk. HE EVEN HAD THE AUDACITY TO DO A PUMP IN MID-AIR.
- Al Farouq Aminu is stringing together a really good set of games. And say what you will about the benching and the dog house but it's actually gotten Aminu to play better -- lesser turnovers, more rebounds in lesser minutes. Now, can he throw Rivers into the dog house too? Maybe Rivers will come back better as well!
- Eric Gordon couldn't pull this one out for us. He's just not there yet. I hope he gets there because until such time when Davis can manufacture shots for us (or Vasquez), he's going to be the only one that can create a shot with good results. But as Oleh said his jumper is still in "rehab". And it is. You know when someone is in rehab when you don't feel like every jump shot he takes is good -- whether it's open or not. I'm not yet confident that Eric Gordon's legs are under him.
- The Hornets -- owners of one of the worst records in the league -- kept toe-to-toe with one of the better ones in the league. David Lee was out but what the hell, optimism right?
- Another thing -- in years past, if the Hornets couldn't limit their opponents to 100 points, you just knew they weren't going to win. This was especially true before when we lacked offensive options outside of Paul and West. But with the addition of Anderson, Davis not to mention the development of Vasquez and Gordon's return -- we can actually win with our offense. You couldn't say the same thing for teams of yore when holding teams to below 100 was the ultimate goal because we couldn't outscore the other side. We can now.
- And to continue the above bullet, that's a great thing. I've always believed that a team's offensive efficiency is more player than system -- you put 5 good (efficient) offensive players on the court and even if they aren't really fitting in, they'll still be good. You can't say the same thing about defense -- system matters most on defense. Do we force mid range shots? Force them baseline? Force them middle? Do we pack paint? Etc.. This is really evident when you watch the Los Angeles Lakers -- their team is basically a bunch of superstars that play together but aren't necessarily a team and they are coached by a D'Antoni -- who's not necessarily a defensive specialist. They rank 6th in ORTG, and 20th in DRTG.
- What does that mean? With efficient offensive players on the team -- Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Anthony Davis, Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez -- the offense will carry itself (for the most part) once they start clicking. But the defense will only be as good as what type of system Monty puts in. If that system caters to his personnel, then it should work -- regardless of whether the players have a reputation of being good defenders or not.