Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Home at last, New Orleans dispatches Phoenix
The Hornets snapped their 4 game skid against the team that unsuccessfully attempted to poach Eric Gordon over the summer. Gordon himself put up yet another anemic offensive display though, and it was up to Greivis Vasquez, Al Aminu, and Ryan Anderson to see this one through.
Vasquez's 19 point (on 9 shots), 12 assist, 0 turnover performance was the catalyst. In the lead-up, I expected Goran Dragic would be the better performer, but Vasquez outplayed him comfortably. Aminu's play in transition continues to impress, and Robin Lopez's work on the offensive glass (5 boards there) should be noted as well.
The bench played Phoenix's second unit more or less to a draw, the long scoreless stretch notwithstanding. I'd really, really, really like to see Brian Roberts play off the ball more when he's on the floor with Rivers; he can actually shoot the ball at something approximating NBA levels, while Rivers at the point allows him to execute one of the few plays he's decent at, the top-of-the-key pick and roll. Hopefully we see it more.
New Orleans' defense finally showed up as the pace of the game slowed down; the final possessions count was approximately 88 though it looked like it would easily make it into the mid-90s in earlier parts of the game. The Hornets gave up 31 points on 42 second half possessions (73.8 defensive efficiency), an excellent figure after ceding a horrible 53 on 46 to start (115 defensive efficiency).
And so the double-edged offense/defense issue continues. Transition, as Nico masterfully pointed out over the weekend, can be a huge force in sparking the offense, but higher paces continue to cause defensive issues. Another good defensive point made by usnfish in the comments was that the 2-3 zone really hasn't been working.
If you'll recall back to just a couple seasons ago, the 2-3 zone was one of the biggest contributors to the elite (top 5 in the NBA) defense the Hornets played when Monty Williams first arrived. That leads me to believe it's a personnel issue, but at the same time, the inability of one of the team's (otherwise) best defenders, Aminu, to play in the zone is disheartening.
I suppose a comment on Gordon is a good place to end. Yes, he seems to be taking to his role decently (in terms of attitude if not shooting averages), and the team seems unlikely to pursue a move to offload him in the summer, what with resting him with regularity in order to preserve his long term value (and, in turn, deflate his short term value). But the Phoenix saga is unlikely to be forgotten soon, especially after nights like this one. It's a bit like a person that yells something a little too mean spirited and maybe a little bit too true during an argument. The argument's months old at this stage, but Gordon's going to get the side eye when he doesn't perform, with an intensity that few other Hornets will get. Them's the breaks.
Last but not least -- a very happy birthday to ryancaz, official At the Hive Painter/optometrist!