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Los Angeles used an atrocious second quarter from New Orleans and the referees and Monty Williams in the fourth to pull out a win against the Hornets.
I hate complaining about how I hate complaining about the refs, but the number of three-in-the-keys the Lakers got away with tonight was borderline absurd; so too was the contact permitted to the Lakers on Hornets around the rim. On the other end, every instance of incidental contact was called on the Hornets. The total free throw disparity of 33 attempted by Los Angeles to 21 for the Hornets in no way, shape, or form reflected the teams' respective aggressiveness levels.
Let's talk about Monty Williams though. Things he did tonight that had me screaming at my television:
- Ran multiple (multiple!) Lance Thomas-Austin Rivers pick and rolls with Ryan Anderson standing completely unused, even as a decoy, in the remote, desolate, weakside corner. Thomas and Rivers are the two worst players on the floor, so this is already inexcusable. I can understand using Rivers in the P&R (he's not always awful at it) but when the roll man can't shoot and can't be expected to catch and finish and the presumed open target (Anderson) is too far removed from the play to be a beneficiary, what in the world is the point?
- Guarded Kobe Bryant with Austin Rivers. This was fine the first few times, as an experiment. It became exceedingly clear very early on that two negative results were being generated -- (a) guarding Bryant with Rivers was forcing almost automatic double teams and easy ball movement for L.A., and (b) when Rivers was picked, the play was suicide because Rivers was barely big enough to defend Bryant, let alone a bigger player on a switch.
Try it a couple times, figure it out, move on. That would have been fine. But nope. Monty Williams bizarrely left Rivers on the floor for critical defensive possession after critical defensive possession. The game's clinching play, Antawn Jamison's wide open lay-up, was created by this exact scenario. Rivers couldn't guard Bryant, the double came, the Lakers swung the ball around the perimeter, and that was that.
- Two players on the bench on that clinching defensive meltdown? Al-Farouq Aminu, far and away the Hornets' best Kobe defender, and Anthony Davis, who's been locked out of fourth quarters for some time now.
- Monty Williams is yet to figure out how to use Anderson efficiently in the half court.
Ryan Anderson's best offensive "play" is still Greivis Vasquez finding him trailing in transition for the triple; there's honestly nothing that even comes close to this in halfcourt sets. The vast majority of Anderson plays these days seem to be bungled pick and rolls that end with him launching (and often making) contested, deep triples. The off-ball motion playbook for Anderson is sorely lacking.
My tweet after the game -- something to the effect of "outside of player development, Monty Williams brings nothing" -- was probably too reactionary. But I feel like its central point still stands.
It feels to me that the Hornets are playing "good" offense right now primarily because of the individual play of great players in a highly chaotic offensive atmosphere. Anderson hitting fadeaway 26 footers or Vasquez sinking late shot clock runners off glass over two defenders or Gordon breaking down his defender to get to the line feels far more individually focused than structurally driven. In a nutshell, I don't feel comfortable crediting Monty Williams with the Hornets' increased offensive success of late. And of course, the defense is still far from good.
Closing on some player notes:
- Fantastic night for the Hornets' top players -- Anthony Davis had 18 points on 12 shots, Greivis Vasquez had 15 points, 15 assists, and 1 turnover, and Eric Gordon had 25 points on 12 shots.
- Ryan Anderson was decent from deep (3 for 7), but his two point shooting was poor (3 for 8), something of a recurring trend this season.
- This game underscored the need for stronger post defense. On a number of occasions, L.A. big men (primarily Dwight Howard) were so far under the hoop that the closest defender had no choice but to just grab the player off the ball. It was exceedingly pathetic to watch.
- Things didn't play out at the Hornets' slow tempo (97 possessions for each team (hat tip, @dexterfishmore)), but at the same time, speed of play didn't seem to overly plague New Orleans' play.
- Dwight Howard's probably still camped out in the paint at Staples, laughing his ass off. Sigh.