A hot Knicks team and no Anthony Davis made this an easy one to call.
With Anthony Davis missing the game due to a stress reaction in his ankle, the game started pretty much the way most would have expected: with the Hornets down 14 points in the first quarter. However, thanks to a Brian Roberts bombing run, a mini-breakout by Austin Rivers and a Lance Thomas sighting, the Hornets outscored the Knicks 31-24 in the 2nd quarter. The team still couldn't rebound well nor get out to shooters fast enough, but the small unit surprisingly closed the deficit to only five at the break.
As good as fans were feeling at halftime, the third quarter extinguished all euphoric emotions. A smorgasbord of terrible Hornet hoops was on full display in the 2nd half: awful rebounding, bad closeouts, dismal shooting and a complete lack of intelligent and energetic basketball. Consequently, bear with me as we attempt to discern three positives.
1) The Little Guys. Brian Roberts, Austin Rivers and Greivis Vasquez all had some good stretches. Roberts was on fire early as he nailed 3 from behind the arc in the first half; Rivers went for a career high of 14 and demonstrated an actual jumpshot; and Vasquez was quite efficient at both taking care of the ball and putting it through the hoop. And no, we're not going to delve further and notice Roberts can't do anything else on the floor, Rivers forgot how to shoot FT's and Vasquez had the worst +/- on the night.
2) Long Range shooting. 8 for 18 on the night, but the 7 of 14 in the first half was definitely responsible for keeping New Orleans in the game. Unfortunately, the Knicks did a better job closing out on shooters in the 2nd half. Going forward, it's going to be vital the Hornets continue to get opportunities from deep if they want to win some games.
3) Ryan Anderson's Repertoire. Not sure how many had the chance to watch him play in Orlando but it's interesting how many critics thought he was going to be in for a down 2012-13 season. Van Gundy never gave Ryno the freedom to display much besides open perimeter jumpers. As we've witnessed, he is much more multifaceted than that as he can handle the ball extremely well for a power foward (1.1 TO) to get off shots anywhere on the floor. He's not Dirk Nowitzki yet (and will probably never be), but he's indeed a rare breed.
1) Rebounding. Knicks had a 24-16 edge at the half and 45-34 for the game, but it was noticeably more lopsided than that. For starters, they had what seemed like hundreds more second chances. It was so depressing that during one sequence every Hornet crashed the boards against zero Knicks, but New York still ended up with the rebound as the ball bounced off the floor right into their hands. Meanwhile, New Orleans' first 2nd chance points came after halftime. Missing Anthony Davis is going to hurt, but the rest of the team has to collectively do a better job. Especially when the opposition's starting power forward is a shooting forward in disguise.
2) Spot up Defense. If you're not going to double Carmelo hard every time, then you need to infinitely play better defense on the perimeter. The Knicks jacked up 36 three point attempts. Even though they only connected on 14 of them, it seemed like they cashed in on all their open looks when it was still a competitive game. This makes three straight games where the deep ball has been quite detrimental. Let's not collapse so much into the paint all the time guys!
3) Robin Lopez. If you're a starting center in this league and the team's franchise PF is out, you can't be a complete non-factor. When the game still mattered, Robin picked up 4 fouls in around 10 minutes of court time. Then when he was on the floor, he was consistently getting showed up. Undoubtedly the worst moment was when Rasheed Wallace first out-hustled him for a rebound then later rejected him on the other end. If a 38 year old who was munching on chips at the local Y the last several years gets the best of you, you deserve the FroLo nickname changed to FroNO!
Four consecutive losses now for the Crescent City guys and it won't get any easier as we hit the road to take on the Indiana Pacers tomorrow. Likely Unibrow-less.