Photograph by Jonathan Bachman
If that wasn't the worst first quarter that the Hornets have played all season, you gotta wonder what business this Hornets' team has of even sniffing the playoffs. But, alas, the Hornets are still in the playoff race and, right now, they have a lot to figure out about themselves and what they're capable of doing in the post-season. There are many ways to disect the Hornets' loss tonight, but here are some particularly striking notes:
"It just felt like we were in a gun-fight with a knife," David West said (possibly paraphrasing Jay-Z). "I'm not talking physically, I'm just talking about being able to send shots back. We just didn't have enough firepower."
It's no secret that New Orleans is hurting right now. They're still missing Tyson Chandler and James Posey due to injuries and Peja Stojakovic, who just returned to the lineup because of chronic back pain, still hasn't found his shooting rhythm (he finished with six points on 2-of-7 shooting). But even if they weren't missing players, it's clear that this team has regressed from last season. Why is anybody's guess. But it's becoming more and more evident that this is not a complete basketball teams as much as it is Chris Paul, David West and 12 other players.
"Right now I think [Paul and West] are pressing because tey are trying to do too much because we aren't getting enough from the other guyes," coach Byron Scott said. "We need to get more from other people."
West is talking about lacking "firepower" and Scott is seemingly begging his bench to be more productive -- neither are topics that a potentially playoff-bound team wants to be talking about this late in the season. But yet, this is where the Hornets stand. To be sure, the Jazz have had their own problems of late. Coming into tonight's game they had lost three games in a row, two of which against playoff teams. The Hornets talked all week about coming out with intensity, instead they laid a first-quarter egg unlike any other.
"In this game you never know what's going to happen," Utah coach Jerry Sloan said. "There are strange games, you'll have games like that. Things just happen."
For the Hornets, things "just happening" has seemingly been the story of their season. It just so happens that they've lost 10 games to sub-.500 teams or that they seemingly can't win big games to save their lives or that their bench seems to belong to a junior college team, not a proffesional basketball squad. The general consensus around the league is that the Hornets injuries have hit them hard because their bench was already weak to begin with. But having a thin bench doesn't explain not showing up on the defensive end.
"We were not doing anything whatsoever on the defensive end," Scott said. "When you are doing that against a team like this, the way they execute they are going to kill you and they carved us up in the first half."
Worse yet, the Hornets have the toughest remaining schedule of anybody in the league. When Scott talks about his team needing to play defense against teams that know how to execute well, he may as well be talking about the Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, or San Antonio Spurs -- all teams the Hornets face in the next 10 days. If the Hornets can't figure out how to play with drive and intensity, it's going to be a long couple of weeks to finish the season.
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