And that's a sweep of Texas. The Hornets stayed undefeated in games that Eric Gordon starts this year (and moved to 4-1 overall) despite getting just 5 points on a combined 2 for 19 shooting effort from Gordon and Ryan Anderson.
The offensive spark was Roger Mason Jr. late, as his 17 points on 7 shots in 16 minutes thrust New Orleans from a losing position to one firmly in the lead. And while the offense came and went and arguably wouldn't have been enough without Mason's effort, the defense was solid all night.
Houston came into the game 6th at overall offense, and the Hornets held them to 79 points on 93 possessions (a good 24 points/100 possessions below their seasonal averages). Some of that came down to the number of wide open layups Houston blew at the rim -- by my count, at least five -- but the Hornets did an exceptional job avoiding contact in the post, contesting perimeter shots, and forcing ball handling errors from the Houston backcourt. Jeremy Lin and James Harden combined for 12 turnovers.
- Greivis Vasquez played yet another excellent game, finishing with 17 points (7 of 13 shooting), 11 assists, 4 rebounds, and 4 turnovers. We're near the midway point of the season, and at this stage, I think it's pretty indisputable that Vasquez has outplayed his Houston counterpart, the very expensive Jeremy Lin. He certainly outplayed him in this game; before garbage time, Lin's line was 5 points on 2 of 10 shooting.
- Al-Farouq Aminu's rebounmding has been such a boon to the Hornets, and it continued here. The shot is ugly, the game is awkward, but his energy is changing games right now and that's all that matters.
- The Hornets lose this game without Jason Smith's relentless effort. His 17 points and 10 rebounds (6 offensive) partially made up for the absolutely awful game Ryan Anderson played.
- /ignores Robin Lopez's 0 defensive rebound line
- It's been interesting to watch Anthony Davis fade into the background a little bit since Eric Gordon has returned. He's been absent late in games, and in general, he's being assigned less dangerous matchups and being used in lower leverage scenarios. For now, I'm a fan of this; it allows Davis to develop at his own rate rather than the forced one we saw early in the year. Moreover, he's shown that he's not ready at this stage to be a premier defensive talent, and that's also fine for now.
- Austin Rivers needs to be sent to the D-League. He's still young, and he could easily improve. The problem is that "NBA reps" won't really help at this point because he 's simply so overmatched. While I wanted him to get heavy minutes early in the year, the Hornets are a decent, competitive team now. Where playing Rivers didn't matter in November and December, his 15 abysmal minutes could very easily be the difference between a win and a loss now. Rivers is poor, and judging by how much he hung his head today -- after his turnover/loose ball foul sequence in the third, he legitimately looked like he was about to cry -- his confidence isn't in a great place either.
- Eric Gordon's creativity today was excellent, and the Gordon/Smith connection grows stronger by the game. His finishing around the rim is still highly suspect and his shot hasn't fallen, but he's absolutely changed the way the Hornets look on both ends of the floor.
- And to close on Mason, he used just 8 shooting possessions to get his 17 points. All in all, it was eerily reminiscent of this performance from Downtown Devin Brown four years ago.