The surgeon goes to work.
Chris Paul scored 18 points and dished out 17 assists, surgically dismantling the Warriors defense as the Hornets starters shot 33-for-48 from the field (68.8%). The final score was not indicative of the Hornets' starting five's dominance over that of the Warriors, attributable to some bad support by the New Orleans bench. In total, the Hornets assisted on 32 of their 46 field goals.
Dorell Wright capped a late run which brought the Warriors to within 3 points, largely with CP3 resting, but once he returned and sparked a 10-2 run, it was over.
The results beg the age-old question: good offense or bad defense?
The game simply came down to the Hornets' imposing their will on the Warriors, far more often than the opposite. As mentioned in the preview, SB Nation's Oklahoma City Thunder blog, Welcome To Loud City, put it best:
Chris Paul plays the point position like a pit bull. It is maddening to watch him go against the team you cheer for, because Paul is out on the court trying to exploit any advantage or edge that presents itself. He punches, he pushes, he flops, he complains, he talks trash, and he does it all some more. He also doesn't care what you think. He'll keep doing all those things because he is convinced it gives his team an edge to win games.
The Warriors got off on the wrong foot again, as silly early turnovers led to CP3 fastbreaks and poor interior defense led to inside buckets and the obligatory dunk off a post up by the bigger/faster/stronger Emeka Okafor.
Monta Ellis scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half, keeping the Warriors from getting blown out early, but on the defensive end, CP3 was doing whatever he wanted against Monta, and the help defense would result in David Lee being far too low to recover on the jump shooting David West or similarly with Dorell Wright, resulting in an open deep look by Trevor Ariza.
When the Hornets bench came in, the Warriors cut the lead down, once in each half. Jarrett Jack was horrible in support of CP3, committing 5 turnovers in just 16 minutes of play. But the Warrior runs were more a result of the Hornets stringing together a series of bad turnovers than the Warriors making stops.
Other interesting facets of the game:
- The return of Marco Belinelli: In short, Marco did what he is paid to do. 11 pts on 5-for-8, with 4 assists.
- The mental lapses of Stephen Curry: He was yanked rather early as Reggie Williams got an early sub, but Reggie couldn't provide any spark as he couldn't knock down an open three and looked too timid to attack the rim. Reggie's definitely been in a slump of late. For Steph, he had the obligatory bad swing pass, which thankfully did not result in an and-one the other way on the fastbreak layup. As Q3 came to a close in a two-for-one situation, Steph made a jab step from the deep elbow but traveled. He had a few nice offensive plays, but his play is just inconsistent. He also got beasted on by Marcus Thornton late.
- All-Star bid for Monta: Monta only scored 7 points after a 19-point first half, but he tallied 26 and dished out 5 assists. Not a bad night if NBA coaches are looking at boxscores. Monta played a lot of minutes and was much less effective as the night wore on. One more perhaps trivial thing on Monta: he had a touch foul on a double-team help on D.West as D.Lee was bodying up D.West's post up play. However, it seemed that D.Lee had D.West in a stalemate. This might be nothing, but does this show Monta's lack of confidence in a teammate's ability to play one-on-one D? Or maybe it was just a bit of a bonehead slap of the wrist gamble?
- Andris Biedrins: Who? His statline was hovering near Club Trillion territory. Actually, Biedrins had a couple of nice helps in a brief flash of a couple minutes and a nice post play which resulted in a brick that drew backboard but no rim, but that was it. Was his offensive confidence shattered after the brick?
- Ekpe Udoh: Udoh got an early look as Coach Keith Smart yanked both Curry and Beans, who once again struggled. But in the second half as the Hornet lead stretched to 20 and things looked out of hand, Udoh continued to sit a little more before finally coming back in. He managed to be on the court when the Warriors last rally with about 3 minutes left came to halt as CP3 and the rest of the starters checked back in to go for the kill.
- David Lee: Lee twice muffed drop passes on drives by Monta and Dorell. It's just not in his nature to cut hard to the basket. He's more of the sneak-around-for-a-rebound type. A lot of his plays tonight screamed finesse, which is the anti-thesis to the title of his position: "power" forward. The ugly shot-put over Okafor early that back-ironed was also indicative of this.
- Dorell: Solid again. Even had a successful upfake drawing contact and free throws. The upfakes from beyond the arc and penetration into the paint were impressive.
- Lou Amundson: Good energy off the bench, but just not very skilled play. Got swatted by Okafor on an unathletic finger roll after a nice slip on the screen, which led to a Hornets fastbreak.
- Acie Law: Looked solid off the bench. Didn't get much playing time, though.
- Reggie Williams: As mentioned above, did not support Curry that well.
- Vladimir Radmanovich: A missed open trey. Not much spark, although he didn't really do anything glaringly wrong.
- Brandan Wright: DNP. Not even when the Hornets got up by 20.
- Keith Smart substitution patterns: He tried to get an early spark and some mental toughness with Williams and Udoh off the bench, but the roll of that dice failed. Jim Barnett suggested late that B.Wright and Udoh get a look as the game seemed out of reach, but only Udoh came back in, rather late at that. It seemed that Smart was still do everything he could to win the game, but it was clear that CP3 had a stranglehold on this one. Again, you wonder if Smart's able to mix the short-term and long-term goals amongst the 48 minutes available to him. Interestingly, Barnett tempered his criticism by saying he was being critical of Smart.
- Re-tweets of the night: From my @nbalivetweet account, I'm following all the local beatwriters and here are some highlights:
Matt Steinmetz: "Warriors with 11 turnovers in first half so far, leading to 16 Hornets points. NO 51, GSW 39."
Geoff Lepper: "Also: D.Wright and Ellis have played all 24. Can they both go 48?"
Steinmetz: "The NBA high for FG% in a game this year is 65.8 by Boston (vs. Wash). New Orleans shooting 66.1 with 8:50 left in fourth."
I was troubled by a post-game quote by Smart (see NBA.com recap):
"We have to get away from being safe," Smart said. "We play safe too much."
The Dubs' frontline of D.Lee and Beans has the highest ratio of salary-to-athleticism in the NBA. Who's playing it safe when B.Wright is a DNP and Udoh gets 12 minutes? I don't see the interior defense getting better anytime soon.