If the Hornets are going to be this bad on offense, then they're going to need to get an even better defense. Considering they were going into tonight's game with the third ranked defense in the NBA, albeit a small sample size, I'm not sure they're gonna get any better on that end of the floor.
The offense tonight, was atrocious. There was no flow, ball movement was non existent, and no matter how many adjustments Steve Clifford made, nothing worked. Some credit does have to go to the Pelicans, the front court duo of Anthony Davis and Omer Asik certainly scared them right out of the paint. Whenever they did give the ball to Al Jefferson, he struggled to establish position, forcing him to pass the ball back out. The Hornets seemed tentative to attack the paint, and spent far too much time settling for jump shots. This is starting to become a continuing trend, and while Hornets fans should show concern, they shouldn't panic. The offense started off bad last year, and got better with time. Also, it's still way too early to be freaking out. There were lots of new additions to the roster, having it all gel will take some time.
There is one thing Hornets fans might want to start getting a little worried with, and that's Lance Stephenson. His problem doesn't seem to be fitting in, but rather the way he's playing. Stephenson earned his contract off ball penetration, allowing him to create and score. He plays a very aggressive style. So far this season, that aggression has been absent. Rather than looking to penetrate, he seems to be looking for passing lanes, and space. I'm not sure if this is him, or Steve Clifford, but Stephenson is not Josh McRoberts. The best way he's creating for the offense is by dribbling. I'm okay with trying to help him develop a McRoberts like passing game, but eliminating his penetration game has not been beneficial.
Then there's the shooting, oh goodness the shooting. Kemba Walker had another horrible night, going 4-13. Marvin Williams was 4-9, and Brian Roberts was 1-5. The Hornets as a team shot 46%, and 28% from three point range. Some of this is an effect of the lack of ball movement. Quick dribble pull ups, that any defense will allow, happened far too often.
The only good offense the Hornets managed to find tonight, came from Gary Neal and Cody Zeller, off the bench. Picking apart New Orleans atrocious bench, Neal put up 21 points on 15 shots. Albeit, he was gunning for most of those points, but hey, if his shot is falling, then it works. While Neal was putting up points in the backcourt, Zeller was doing some work down low. Nine points on five shots with a trip to the free throw line, Zeller was putting pressure on the Pelicans front court all night long. It's a shame more couldn't follow in their foot steps and put up some points and pressure of their own.
While the Hornets floundered on offense, their defense actually wasn't too bad. The Pelicans also shot 46% from the field, and struggled to consistently hit shots. What kept the Hornets in the game most of the night, was that their defense manged to force a slump or two out of the New Orleans offense. But in the end, the Pelicans have a very explosive offense. They're gonna get their points, and the starting lineup managed to do that. Ryan Anderson, Austin Rivers, Anthony Davis, Omer Asik, and Tyreke Evans all managed to score in double digits. Davis had one hell of a game, 10-of-17 with 24 points and 13 rebounds. He was damn near unstoppable, and it's hard to fault the Hornets for not being able to stop him. Davis was the difference maker tonight.
The Hornets have to get better on offense. It's lazy to place so much of the loss on just one area, but if the Hornets had an even okay offense tonight, they would have been in a much better position to win. The score says it was only a nine point game, but that was an attempt to battle back from a 15 point lead the Pelicans reached midway through the 4th quarter.
With a tough stretch of games coming up, including a west coast road trip, the Hornets are going to need to fix some of their offensive struggles. The west will eat them alive if they don't.