The Hive Five: Game Seventy-Seven

WORDS: || AP (through NBA.com) || Five Observations ||

NUMBERS: || Box Score || Shot Chart || Play-by-Play ||

VIDEOS: || ESPN || NBA.com || Yahoo! ||

Yeah, this is the team I don’t want to meet in the playoffs.

First I get my NCAA bracket all wrong, now this?

It’s very easy to chalk this loss up to “bad shooting” but that wasn’t what happened. Utah simply played the best defense we’ve seen any opponent play against New Orleans. The pick and roll was absolutely destroyed by Deron Williams and Ronnie Brewer. David West was hounded all night, and settled for the fall-back J every time. After the early CP-TC alley-oop the pair didn’t sniff a chance at it again. The disturbing trend of Paul struggling against Williams continued; CP wasn’t in foul trouble but sure was working hard on the defensive side. Therein lies one of Utah’s biggest advantages- since their team has so much size, there’s nobody else on the court that Paul can guard. CP’s shot was way off the mark tonight and couldn’t penetrate at will like usual. Williams did a tremendous job staying in front.

But given the outcome of the contest, there sure were a lot of positives: Hilton Armstrong really took advantage of his extra minutes tonight. Byron Scott has been trying him out lately, for whatever reason, after Chris Anderson and Melvin Ely had their respective shots at extended minutes. His box-outs were solid, his help defense came quickly, and he was very active in tapping balls off the offensive glass. The thing that’ll hurt him though is the catch he failed to make late in the first quarter- his biggest flaw has always been his hands. That would have been an easy dunk, and instead he couldn’t make the catch. You have to think Byron will keep that in mind for a playoff matchup. I saw a wrinkle in David West’s game that if he incorporates consistently can take his game to a higher level. He made three very nice finds of cutters, while in his back to the basket stance. If you watch a game closely, you’ll normally find no player movement on David West isos. Bringing guys from the off-side towards the hoop was a great idea for Byron to try, especially since West is an underrated passer.

Pace

Eff

eFG

FT/FG

OREB%

TOr

UTH

69.0

98.6

50.0%

4.6

30.0

18.8

NOR

72.5

38.5%

4.9

17.6

18.8

1. Shooting (X) This was easily one of our worst shooting nights of the year. Every time a guy took a shot, there was a hand in his face; even the take-for-granted David West 17-footer wasn’t there. Peja continued to be ice-cold from the floor, and since New Orleans left on their 6 game road trip, he just hasn’t looked like the same player.

2. Turnovers (X) Utah did turn it over more often than us, but that’s no excuse for how many turnovers we had. West and Paul combined for 7 turns, but the one that stands out to me most was Wells’ inbound pass. That was just hideously lazy, and totally inappropriate for a team sitting on top of its conference. It really looked like Wells was throwing in the towel with that pass; giving up due to a 15 point lead in the 3rd quarter is unacceptable.

3. Offensive Rebounding (X) If there was any chance of us pulling off the improbable comeback, we gave it away via the glass. The guys showed no energy whatsoever on either team’s boards; other than Chandler (with 3 OREB’s), the rest of the team combined for a mere 3 OREBs. Paul Millsap came in and got 2 of his own, in just 17 total minutes for Utah. Yes, we do have a severe matchup problem with the Jazz, but OREBs is a category we could and should be at least even.

4. Free Throws (X) There were 19 total fouls called. Nineteen. Kobe Bryant has probably attempted more free throws than that in two or three games this season. I’m a big fan of letting players play, but this was just too extreme. There were tremendous amounts of un-whistled contact on both sides. I saw Boozer get shoved out of the way under the glass at least twice, and I saw David West hammered on a couple moves, both without calls. I hate to make this entire recap sound so negative, but this was a major flaw in Byron’s game plan. Utah fouls more than any other team in the NBA, but the Hornets made no attempt to take advantage of that. Instead of going to West deep on the block, they let him float around the 19 foot range for jumpers. Instead of going to that wacky Tyson Chandler post move (yes, this would’ve been the one time it would’ve been useful), they didn’t go to him at all. Instead of getting it to a bona fide foul-drawer in Bonzi Wells, Pargo came in and took random, tough jumpers in the 2nd. I love Pargo, but when a game strategy is begging to be utilized, you need to take advantage. The one player that did drive hard was Peja (I can’t believe he finally threw one down!), but he was the exception.

5. Pace (69) I have a FireFox script that calculates the pace value for me, but when I saw this game’s pace, I had to go back and re-calculate myself. 69? This was a grinder of a game, and it was a rare instance of the defense setting the tempo. Utah forced New Orleans to use up 20+ seconds of the clock on nearly every 3rd quarter possession, not to mention the tough looks they compelled. I never thought I’d see Chris Paul stifled as he was, in a non-foul trouble game, but Utah pulled it off. I never thought I’d see Tyson Chandler’s roll to the hoop successfully impeded by a defender, but Okur did it all night. And finally, I never thought I’d see our MVP lose his focus to frustration, but he certainly did. His charge on Williams midway through the third looked as intentional as they come.

There’s one thing this offense needed more of tonight, and that was floor spacing. Every time Paul tried to initiate the pick and roll with TC, the Jazz crowded him with both defenders (his and Chandler’s) and had a third guy roll to cover Chandler. This is something unique (Houston was the other team to do it consistently). Almost all opponents send that third guy to help with Chandler, but since Utah sent two defenders onto Paul, running the pick and roll essentially became walking into a trap. The play that epitomized this, of course, was when CP was stripped and Ronnie Price threw down on the fastbreak. I’m really hoping I can find video of this somewhere since League Pass won’t have it (stupid NBA TV…).

At the end of the day, this game taught us a lot more than a win would have. That’s important since we could very well see Utah again in the Playoffs. The two keys: 1. Draw fouls. This is accomplished by hard takes to the hoop, but more easily by posting up David West and Bonzi Wells deep on the block. Posting them up high (as we did today) really accomplishes nothing due to Boozer and Okur’s strength. 2. Floor spacing. Not only do Peja and Mo-Pete need to get as far from the pick and roll as possible, but I’d also like to see some lateral movement by Tyson instead of a straight roll to the hoop. The defender who’s supposed to switch on to him anticipates his coming to the rim immediately. If Tyson delays his cut even by a little, the second defender on Paul (Tyson’s original defender) is forced to consider switching back to Tyson. And I might as well throw a third key in: Ryan Bowen needs to deliver pre-game motivational speeches to all the guys. Seriously, can you imagine if every player on the roster had Ryan’s hustle?

WORDS: || AP (through NBA.com) || Five Observations ||

NUMBERS: || Box Score || Shot Chart || Play-by-Play ||

VIDEOS: || ESPN || NBA.com || Yahoo! ||

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13 Responses

  1. What stings most about this game is pride. All those Utahites who think D-Will is better than CP will have fodder. But one team beating another doesn’t prove that. Were you the one to ask if the Nuggets’ demolition of the Cavs in the last few years means Carmelo is better than Lebron? Well, regardless, the answer is obviously no. But that aside, and maybe I’m alone on this one, but I really don’t feel, and never have (this year), that Utah is a better team than New Orleans.

    I think, as you said, we needed to take more advantage of their physical play, by trying to draw fouls. But, as the refs were loath to call any fouls this game (other than offensive fouls), the Hornets also should have adjusted on defense. They should have hacked the shit out of the Jazz, pushed them around, and basically maligned them every which way short of a flagrant foul. If the refs are not going to call it why not? And guess what, that was the Jazz’s philosophy tonight.

    But lastly, I really, really, have to wonder, when down to about ten points after being down by twenty in the fourth, why Byron refused to re-insert Peja and Mo. Especially once he put back in CP and D-West. Did he think we wouldn’t need to make 3s to win the game? Seriously? At the very least, the threat of dangerous 3-point shooters would have forced the D to overcommit to guarding the perimeter and probably have allowed some easy interior baskets. But no. Mike James and Bonzi. I love those guys. They got us within ten. I respect that. But arguably, Peja and Mo would have been better subs THAN CP and D-West at that point.

    Bottom line? Frustrating loss. Hurts us in the Western Conference standings. But at the end of the day? I’m not scared of the Jazz or anyone. Bring them on. Everyone has a bad night. Even the Hornets. Even CP. But it’s just one game. I feel bad for the T-Wolves tomorrow night, though.

  2. I completely hear you about leaving Mike James and Bonzi out on the floor. A lot of times you’ll see a coach leave a lineup out on the floor because that’s what has been working. In doing so, the team will often fail to take advantage of other mismatches that have presented themselves in the meanwhile. As you say, that was clearly the case tonight. Bonzi and Co. got us back in the game through physical takes to the hoop, and some neat drive and kicks. But that was the point- the nature of their offensive games tonight was a physicality.

    A physical approach to a comeback makes sense over a long stretch of time; you have the opportunity to create long possessions ending in buckets, while wearing your opponent down. But when there’s just 4 minutes left, it doesn’t matter how physical you are. The fact is you need to put points on the board, not wear down your opponent so you can put points on the board LATER. And that’s the big key- the bench set up the starters to put up points later. They set up the jump-shooters to come in and knock some shots down. The problem was those jump shooters never came in.

    All that being said though, the final minutes of the game really walked the fine line of “should I put the starters back in, or is it still too big of a lead?” I question Byron’s strategy, but I can (sort of) see the questions he must have been grappling with. At the end of the day, I bring Mo and Peja back in, but that’s just me.

  3. Would you call a 16-assist game subpar? Well when you only score 4 points, and turn the ball over 6 times, yes. Williams’ team did win the game tho, so credit where credit’s due. Utah’s transition D was amazing last night as well. With as many shots as they missed, one would think we would be able to run on them. Not last night, they got back quickly. That was the best defense we’ve faced all year. True, we didin’t make shots, but we were pretty much shut down.

    And what’s up with the Mike James thing? If you’re gonna bring someone in that doesn’t get much PT, at least bring in Big Bird. We could have used the size and energy. I’m telling you, the Hive would have gona apeshit if he got into the game. Byron, I beg you, you have one more opportunity to let Big Bird out of his cage at home. Do it for the fans Coach

  4. Mike James was odd, haha. Even if Byron was thinking he needed to push the pace, Big Bird probably gets up and down the court faster than anyone on the bench…

  5. I’ll tell you why the Hornets lost. Because your so-called MVP got frustrated by physical playoff-like basketball and didn’t have his head in the game to lead his team.

    This is the difference between an experienced team/player and an inexperienced one. When an experienced player isn’t getting calls and is involved in a rough, physical game he doesn’t get frustrated, he adapts to it. An inexperienced player on the other hand gets frustrated and complains about the calls.

    The fact of the matter is that the Jazz made the Hornets play their type of basketball and that’s why they won.

  6. I agree with you that CP got frustrated yesterday. I give Utah all the credit in the world for playing the best defense any team has played against New Orleans this year. I said as much in my recap.

    But if you’re saying that CP’s frustration has been the norm this season, rather than the exception, you’re dead wrong. We’ve seen him fight through tough physical games against the great teams (Houston, San Antonio, Boston). We’ve seen him take the high road versus guys trying to get into his head (see: Alston, Rafer). We’ve seen him adapt his game in contests with minimal foul calls before.

    If you want to mock his MVP-credentials because of one bad game, be my guest. The rest of us Hornet fans will be more than happy with Chris Paul, the “inexperienced and frustrated” point guard with the 28.6 PER (the best in the history of the position, might I add). Because the fact is, that’s light years better than Deron Williams or any other PG have been this year, poised as they may be.

  7. I’m not trying to take anything away from what Chris Paul has done this year. He has led his team to what is so far the best record in a ridiculously competitive Western Conference. But from what I saw last night he did not look or act the way an MVP should.

    I’m not saying he has gotten frustrated every game this season but you have to realize that I’ve watched him play the Jazz four times this year and 3 of them he was non-factor let alone an MVP.

    An MVP should be a factor in EVERY game and should not be able to be taken mentally out of a game. Kobe always is a factor. LeBron is always a factor. LeBron is having arguably the best season any player has had in NBA history. He should win the MVP.

  8. I disagree. Often it only LOOKS like LeBron and Kobe have been factors in a game because of the sheer number of points they score. This doesn’t take into account games in which they were both horribly inefficient and thus detriments to their teams. Kobe has shot 7-24, 4-16, 3-13, 6-23, 6-25, and 6-16 this year. I don’t care how much he ended up scoring in those contests, there’s no way you can say Kobe was a positive factor in these games.

    LeBron has gone 4-17, 2-11, and has had 14 (!) games of five turnovers or more. Likewise for LeBron in those games. You’ll often hear commentators talking about the “little things” Kobe and LeBron (and others) do on bad shooting nights. As soon as somebody can explain to me what the hell a “little thing” is, I’ll believe it. Expecting a player to not have a single off-game for 82 games in a row is lunacy.

    As far as LeBron winning the MVP, I would not mind that at all if it happens. He’s the only guy ahead of Chris Paul in terms of PER this year. But the best season of any player all time? That’s a stretch considering that 22 players have posted better PER’s in a single year. Jordan, Wilt, Hakeem, and the Admiral all have posted better seasons than him.

    Last, Utah is simply a difficult matchup for the Hornets. Regardless of how frustrated the Hornets become, Deron Williams will always be a tough cover for Chris Paul. Staying calm isn’t magically going to allow him to overcome the 3 inch, 30 pound difference in body mass. Again, I agree the Hornets could have used a little dose of poise yesterday, but that doesn’t change the fact that some teams simply don’t match up well against others.

  9. I’m not sure if you know this, but PER does not equal MVP. Even if it did LeBron has a better PER so he would still have the MVP.

    Second, Kobe and LeBron constantly draw double and even triple teams. That is why even when they have a bad shooting night they still free up open shots for their teammates and are then a FACTOR. Don’t forget too, how that much of their numbers are against these same double teams.

    I’m not trying to say Chris Paul isn’t a great PG and along with DWill is the future of the position in the NBA. All I’m saying is that I think both Kobe and LeBron have had better seasons and I think either of them deserve the MVP before Paul.

  10. Are you seriously suggesting that Chris Paul doesn’t free up open shots for his teammates? I’m not saying PER should be the only criteria for MVP. Usage rates, offensive rating, and defensive rating should all be taken into consideration. The thing is I have numbers that back my argument of Paul over Kobe. So far all you’ve done is repeat “Kobe is better than Paul” without backing it up in any way.

  11. Actually, the person I’m arguing should be MVP is LeBron. He has much better stats and his team is definitely not as good as Paul’s.

    If you look at stats and you believe Paul is an MVP candidate, how can you not think Williams is one as well? Their stats are almost identical and the Jazz are only 2 games back. Plus Williams makes Paul look like a D Leaguer when they go head to head.

    If Chris Paul is the MVP how does Williams make him look so bad all the time? And don’t say size. Chris Paul is undersized almost every night he goes out on the floor.

  12. As I said, I’m not arguing against LeBron. The man is a beast, and I think he’s deserving of the award.

    How exactly are Williams’ and Paul’s stats identical? Paul has an assist rate of 52.3 to Williams’ 43.6. Paul has a steals rate of 3.8 to Williams 1.5. Paul turns it over an entire one turnover less per game than Williams. His usage rate is nearly 3 points higher than Williams (25.9 to 23.1). He produces seven more points per 100 possessions than Williams (125 to 118). His defensive rating is ridiculously better (103 to 110). He even outrebounds Williams by 0.6 despite giving up size and weight, and despite having the third best rebounder in the league on his side. Down the stretch, I want Paul’s 85% free throw shooting, not Williams’ 80%.

    The ONLY thing Williams does is outshoot Paul; even that’s a slim margin. Deron has a true shooting percentage of 59.7 (which is incredible) compared to Paul’s 57.5. I hope Paul one day reaches Deron in terms of shooting, but he so vastly outplays Deron in other aspects of the game, that in the end, his PER is 28.4 to 20.9. I don’t care how much you despise or malign PER- a nearly 8 point difference is gigantic.

    The only way you could possibly come to the conclusion that their stats are “identical” is by casually glancing at points (20.4 to 18.2) and assists (11.0 to 10.2) before coming to a conclusion…. which I guess you did.

    Finally, I keep saying this, but you keep ignoring it: Utah guards Paul better than any other team. By Utah, I mean the Utah Jazz squad, not Williams the individual. Deron does an above average job on Paul, but it’s Jerry Sloan’s schemes that have really limited CP. As a young player, Paul has plenty of time to figure out what works and what doesn’t versus the Jazz. To call his entire season non-MVP worthy because of losses to the Jazz doesn’t make any sense. An NBA season is the sum of many games; if you have a bad game or three, you have the opportunity to make up for those in your other 79 contests. Chris Paul has not only made up for it, but also gone well beyond it.

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