In an earlier article, I wrote that if the Hornets' outside shooters had respectable numbers from the outside, that New Orleans would be fine in this series. In fact, I predicted that the Hornets would win in seven games.
I was wrong.
People were thinking and writing that there was no way that the Hornets could contain Carmelo Anthony.
They would be wrong.
Anthony was pretty much a non-factor in this game. Nuggets reserve Linas Kleiza outplayed the Nuggets star.
If you saw any of the game, you could not help notice that Nuggets guard Chauncey Billups was in "the zone." Billups scored 36 points, including hitting eight of nine from behind the arc.
As a bonus to his three-point shooting, Billups was eight for eight from the free throw line and added eight assists. People are going to say that it was Billups who killed the Hornets.
They would be wrong also.
To balance off Billups' lights-out shooting, former Hornet J.R. Smith had a miserable night from the floor. He shot an embarrassing zero percent from three-point land, including one air ball and one near air ball.
As a team, the Nuggets were 11-21 from three-point land while the Hornets were 9-21. That was a two point difference. What accounted for the rest of the difference in the Denver's 113-84 slaughter of the Hornets?
Last night, the Hornets did not do the simple things that allow teams to win games. This includes teams from seven year-old biddy level, through high school, college, and the pros.
The Hornets again did not play defense. Surely, Billups was hot. However, on those rare occasions when a Hornets defender actually put a hand in his face, not allowing him to have a wide-open look, Billups looked quite mortal. Taking away the eight for nine shooting on wide open threes, Billups was two out of six on contested shots.
The Hornets did not get back on defense. There were are least four times that I counted where the Hornets would make a great offensive play, then watch the Nuggets go down the court and score. That is unacceptable on any level of basketball.
Even on times where the Hornets did get back, Denver consistently had a numerical advantage in the transition game. Generally, four offensive players can beat three defenders.
The Hornets did not block out. It seems silly to have to remind multi-millionaire professional players to block out, but maybe Byron Scott needs to have one of his assistants sit on the end of the bench and yell "block out" after every shot. The reason that Nuggets out rebounded the Hornets 49-35 was that they were in poor rebounding position on most shots.
The Hornets lacked energy and hustle. Unless one team is overwhelmingly better than the other, one cannot win without going full-speed the entire game. Maybe it was a problem getting acclimated to the thinner air, but the Nuggets out-hustled the Hornets last night. Although they held their own for most of the first half, with about three minutes left in the second quarter, the Hornets seem to run out of gas.
New Orleans were weak in attacking the basket. One way to neutralize the youth and energy of the Nuggets would have been to aggressively attack the basket. Denver's aggressive play can make them a mistake-prone team. They had 17 turnovers against the Hornets, most of them unforced.
Had the Hornets been able to aggressively attack the basket, they might have gotten the Nuggets in foul trouble early and controlled the game. Instead, David West had one of his worst games going inside, and Tyson Chandler looked tentative.
To top all of that off, former Hornet Chris "Birdman" Anderson had a NBA All-defensive team night, blocking four shots while playing half of the game. Birdman also grabbed six rebounds. Because of these factors, the Hornets were only able to shoot 23 free-throws, making 17.
In the next Hornets Hype, I will look at the possibilities of the Hornets turning this series around and examine the things that they need to do.