Friday, March 27, 2009

The Denver Loss

Yeah so that game against Denver didn't go too well. Fire Byron Scott!

No, don't. Whatever complaints you might have against Byron (and we all have some), this wasn't a loss to due to bad coaching. It was (once again) a loss that can be explained by referencing the injury situation. It was also due to a fantastic defensive performance by the Denver Nuggets. Denver trapped aggressively, played very physical and clogged the lane well. The trapping and banging frustrated the Hornets and caused turnovers and sloppy play. I hate to use a cliche, but I will anyway because it works so very well; Denver came out and punched the Hornets in the mouth.
It didn't help that Chris Paul looked a bit "off." He was a bit lacking in speed, his jumper wasn't there, his dribbling and passing looked a bit out of control and he finished with six turnovers. Somehow he still managed to put up a ridiculous 19/13/6/2 stat line.

Still, props to Denver for having a plan and executing it perfectly. I imagine George Karl counted on the absence of Peja and Tyson because the Denver strategy was perfectly catered to that abscence. Peja wasn't there to spread the floor and be a perimeter threat, Tyson wasn't there to catch the lob... and Denver was able to clog the lane succesfully and trap without worrying too much about getting burned. It also hurt that Butler, who played well (10 points on 4/7 FG and 2/4 3PT), kept getting in foul trouble and thus couldn't really be the offensive threat he needed to be.

What it comes down to is that we need Peja and Tyson back desperately, especially for the playoffs. Though it would be great to finish as a top 4 seed, I'm more concerned about the Hornets having a healthy lineup once the regular season ends and the playoffs begin. Best case scenario is that Tyson and Peja are able to return soon for the stretch run, help the Hornets grind out some tough victories and capture a 2-4 seed. However, if Tyson and Peja continue to sit, victories will be much harder to come by, and a 5-8 seed finish will be much more likely. This is looking like the more likely scenario. Yet if that's what it takes to get those guys healthy for the playoffs, then that's the best course of action. Home court advantage is important, but its not everything. More important is team matchups, and with the way the standings are, landing an unfavorable matchup (Utah) is a possibility no matter the seeding. I don't know about you guys, but I still have my eyes on the Western Conference Finals.

Of course I should also mention the worst case scenario, in which we are a 5-8 seed but are still not healthy for the playoffs. That would suck.

Hornets take on New York tonight. New York handed New Orleans an unfortunate home loss earlier in the season, so hopefully the Hornets can get some revenge tonight.
After New York comes a huge home game against San Antonio on Sunday. A win against San Antonio would make everything all better, wouldn't it?

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