Monday, January 18, 2010

The Hornets are yet to be a true competitor

Posted By on Mon, Jan 18, 2010 at 11:51 PM

click to enlarge Emeka Block


Photograph by Jonathan Bachman


Coming off a stretch where they won eight of ten games, the Hornets seemed like they were in prime position to make a statement against Southwest Division rival San Antonio. New Orleans, though, wasted a golden opportunity to jump back into semi-relevance in the NBA and lost 97-90 in a game that was never that close.


The Hornets never led in this game and trailed by as much as 21. They scored just 16 points in the first quarter, making them 0-7 when they score less than 19 in the opening frame. They were out-rebounded 50-38 and struggled to get to the foul line, taking just 2 free throw attempts to the Spurs' 38. These are all crucial stats that point to the Hornets being out-hustled, out-muscled and generally just out-played by a team they trail in the standings by just four games.


But such is the discrepancy between on of the most consistent winners in the NBA (the Spurs) and one of the most inconsistent (the Hornets). For all the talk that the Hornets are an outstanding home team (which, in fact, they are with a 15-4 record at the Hive) they showed none of the fire and drive that's put them over the top against top competition like Miami, Dallas, and Phoenix.


Coach Jeff Bower refused to use this game as a measuring stick, saying that "never would one game would form one of our evaluation" and justifiably so. NBA seasons hardly ever boil down to just one game. But after not playing against a winning team since January 4th at Utah, the Hornets needed a quality performance against probably their most heated division rival.


Instead, the Hornets did all but completely fall flat on their faces. Emeka Okafor got into foul trouble early and finished with just two points and two rebounds in 14 minutes of play. David West, Chris Paul and Marcus Thorton where the only Hornets that managed to score in double digits and James Posey was the only player that nabbed 10 rebounds. Combine that with the fact that they allowed a combined 46 points from the Spurs' Tony Parker


"They never really let us get to the basket," Paul said. "We've got to figure out other ways to win other than just making shots."


In all fairness, though, the Hornets have shown improvement. The last time they faced the Spurs, in the season opener all the way back in October, the Hornets lost by 17 in a game that was never close. While this game was never particularly close, the Hornets were competitive and kept things interesting until the final minutes. The bad news is that the easiest part of the Hornets schedule is behind them and they'll be facing a lot more quality opponents in the second half of the season. Fans need to pray that the Hornets find their groove fast and learn to beat quality opposition or any shot at the playoffs will all but disappear.

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