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The Future Pelicans

By Jeff Koch on January 7, 2013.

Some teams are just always tough match-ups.

Since Chris Paul left, the Hornets have just not been a good team. But they always play hard. And they always give the Spurs fits. If one were to judge the Hornets based solely on watching them play the Spurs, one might think they were an above-average team. For example, take me: I assumed that the Hornets would probably have a decently rated defense, at least in relationship to their overall record. Nope. They rank in the bottom 5 of the league in defensive efficiency. Yet, in 3 games against the Spurs, one of the two or three best offensive teams in the league, they have held San Antonio to 99, 99, and 88 points, for an average of just 0ver 95 points a game, or about 10 below the Spurs average. Something about this team just works against the Spurs.

However, tonight was their first victory against the Spurs since the departure of Chris Paul. So while they’ve been  close, they’ve never gotten over the hump. But add in a finally healthy Eric Gordon, and suddenly you’ve got a team that starts to make sense and has some (albeit young) talent. And tonight they just had more going than the Spurs. Some would say this was a trap game for the Spurs; and while they looked a bit lethargic, I think that was more the doing of the Hornets than any let down by the Spurs. The Hornets were just better tonight and deserved the win.

The thing I find remarkable about tonight’s loss was how few of these losses we’ve had in the last 3 seasons. The “any given night” theory is strong in the NBA (meaning, any team can beat any other on any given night), particularly in the dog days of the middle stretch of the schedule. But the Spurs usually take care of business against teams that they are clearly better than. Over the last two seasons, I’d be willing to bet most of their losses could be attributed to injuries, schedule, or just playing a better team (of which there aren’t too many). Hence the top seed in the West in back-to-back seasons. So while tonight’s loss is frustrating, at least we aren’t on the wrong end of these annoying losses all that often.

A few more notes from tonight’s game:

–Man has our fast break really gotten to hell the last few weeks. It’s gotten to the point that I just assume Danny Green is going to get blocked from behind at every opportunity. While the Spurs are known for not being flashy, there are certain advantageous situations in which to dunk.

–Speaking of Danny Green, he is a really hot or cold shooter. You can almost judge his entire night based off of his first 3-pointer. If it goes in, prepare for a 6 for 7 type of night. If it doesn’t, prepare for 0-fer night, like tonight.

–Tonight was the kind of game that the bench will often win for us. And while our bench was demonstrably better than theirs (particularly to end the 3rd quarter), it wasn’t enough to overcome the disparity amongst the starters. We did well to close it to 6 at the end of the 3rd (in all honesty, we had no right being that close), but back to back 3-pointers to start the 4th really sealed our fate. We spent the entire game trying to climb out of a hole, and just couldn’t get all the way back.

–On the plus, Manu had another dunk, and is looking really good over the last week.

–Eric Gordon is exceptionally good at basketball.

We play the Lakers on Wednesday in San Antonio. The Lakers are a hot mess right now. They keep losing games. Howard and Gasol will both be out for the game. Jordan Hill, maybe their only other (borderline) NBA rotation big will also be out. There’s a decent chance your buddy from the Y will be starting at PF for them. Kobe and Nash are good, but Duncan should have a field day. Hell, Splitter should have a field day. Bonner should have a field day. This game will probably stay competitive, but there is no excuse not to win.

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