It was ugly, but a 16 point win is exactly what this team needed.
It's games like this where advanced stats can really tell us a lot. Here's tonight's line:
Let's take it component by component.
The first aspect that jumps out is the pace. New Orleans and Charlotte began the game at a crisp pace, using 23 possessions apiece in the opening quarter. But they used just 50 each over the final three quarters. The pace stalled more and more as the second half wore on. The Hornets haven't been particularly efficient offensively under slower paces this season, but the efficiency seemed to pick up on both ends tonight as things slowed down.
The primary reason the Hornets pulled this one out (and at such a significant margin) was the shooting. Neither team shot particularly well from three, but the Hornets connected on over 50% of their twos at 30 for 59. Charlotte shot just 26 for 60 from inside the arc and didn't do particularly well outside of it either (27%).
The free throw numbers aren't entirely indicative of the teams' aggression levels tonight. In particular, Charlotte attacked the rim hard and often. But New Orleans' 8 blocked shots played a huge role in denying post points and free throws. The Bobcats blocked only 2 shots themselves but did a great job at contesting various drive attempts by Marco Belinelli and Trevor Ariza.
After a bad stretch of rebounding, the Hornets got back on track tonight. They collected 82% of all Bobcat misses. The two primary catalysts to that were not only Okafor's 13 defensive rebounds (duh), but also Willie Green's 5 defensive boards off the bench. Guard rebounding played a huge role early in the season in establishing the Hornets as one of the league's best defensive boarding teams (led by Chris Paul and Trevor Ariza), and tonight, we returned to that formula.
Off to some individual player notes:
- I'll post the Jersey Contest leaderboard tomorrow, but mW is the current leader. Not only was he one of just two people to predict our first scorer (Okafor), he also came within one point of predicting our score and three points of predicting theirs. Overall, I think the contest added some flavor to Jason Smith and Willie Green randomly chucking up shots, no?
- Chris Paul took just 7 shots tonight. It's still early in the year, but he's been averaging single-digit shots per game for a decent stretch now.
- David West's face-up jumpers were huge for us. He was our best scorer, both in terms of efficiency (22 points on 15 shots) and total production. On the flip side, Ariza hit the big three down the stretch but put in another woeful offensive performance (needing 15 shots just to get 10 points)
- Gerald Wallace played really well. It'll be interesting to see if he comes up in trade rumors at any point because he could, obviously, play a huge role on a serious contender.
- Willie Green had 3 rather ugly turnovers, but it wasn't all bad (10 points on 7 shots). And he also picked up 2 offensive boards to go with his 5 defensive.
- It's terrific that Monty Williams is going with Quincy Pondexter so much. Q played in the 4th with starters for both teams still in, and he acquitted himself well. I said it the first time I saw him play (back at Washington), and it feels like I say it after every game he plays... but he really does look like an NBA player. He's comfortable with the ball, he has confidence in his shot, and he's fundamentally solid on defense.
- Jarrett Jack didn't get back into the game in the fourth quarter after an 0-4 appearance in the first half where he really didn't impact the game. All credit to Monty Williams for changing things up with Marcus Thornton and Pondexter, who played nice roles in the win.
- Thornton showed again today the new, explosive dimension he brings to this offense. Yes, Willie Green can create shots for himself too, but Thornton's jumper is far more efficient, and he can explode to the rim from any spot on the floor. We need that creativity out there to break out of this offensive funk. Again, great job by Monty Williams in not falling into the stubborn "this is my rotation" mindset we saw from Byron Scott.
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