Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
It's always tough to unequivocally claim a player or a coach or other individual "lost" a game in a team sport. Buckner and Bartman were responsible for ultimately decisive events, for instance, but a number of external factors could just as easily have swung the balance.
We're instinctively drawn towards high leverage errors even though having the open tip stolen is just as detrimental as dribbling it off a shoe on the final possession. And so it was tonight.
The Hornets made so many, many mistakes throughout the evening, most notably missing 60% of their freethrows and conceding a ridiculous number of open shots near the rim at the start and end of the game. Teams won't win too many games missing 15 of 24 free throws while ceding 30 of 35 made free throws to the opposition. So to start with, the Hornets made it really tough on themselves.
From a leverage perspective though, the two plays that stand out most are Eric Gordon's awful pull-up 20 foot jumper with 35 seconds remaining and Jason Smith's illegal screen at 24 seconds. Those two plays essentially handed the win to the Warriors, and both were 100% on Monty Williams. Of that there can be no doubt.
Let's start with the first. The decision to hand a hero-ball possession to a guy with a jumper "still in rehab," as RedHopeful put it in the comments, was inane. Zach Lowe remarked on Twitter that Williams "[has] better plays than that on note paper in [his] trash can."
It was a terrible, cliched, wholly unimaginative playcall, one that wouldn't have been acceptable if Gordon was hoisting with no time on the clock. The 35 seconds left simply compounded matters, with the Warriors able to turn right around and force a game-ending 2-for-1 on the other end.
Smith's inclusion was arguably even worse. He'd already committed a number of bad fouls, including an awful block attempt at 6:37 where he literally had zero shot at making the block. On top of that, he'd picked up a combined 0 rebounds in 17 minutes in play. In short, there was just no reason for him to be on the floor, let alone on the offensive side in place of Ryan Anderson.
Anderson to that point? 19 points on 13 shots, 3 assists, 5 rebounds, including an offensive one. Again, Monty Williams elected to go with a guy playing maybe his worst game of the season and a vastly inferior offensive option on any day, really. Smith's illegal screen felt like painful but poetic justice.
Monty Williams lost this game insofar as it's possible for one individual to do so. (I.e., he didn't. But, he did.)
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Nico may have some individual player thoughts for us in just a bit, but feel free to get the discussion on that started in the comments.