Well, we knew this was going to be a tough game and it was. Game 7 of 7 is a tall order no matter what the opponent.
I remember back in the season preview I suggested that both Brandon and Lamarcus would have to adjust their games because opponents were going to throw their best defenders and best schemes against both. Some folks suggested that was impossible. Tonight we saw that it wasn't. The Hornets deserve a ton of credit for their defense. They hounded Brandon with double-teams all night and contained Lamarcus to one-on-one post moves against a large defender...a situation he hasn't shown he can handle yet. Lamarcus did manage to score on some jumpers and by leaking free on the interior once or twice but he never really got in a groove and didn't do enough damage to matter. Roy's 6-14 shooting wasn't awful but everything looked really hard for him out there tonight (the opposite of the effortless game we're used to seeing from him).
This isn't the first time this has happened. But on other nights we've had people step up and fill the gap, easing the pressure on our two main guys. Not so much tonight. The rest of the team combined for 16-48 shooting, which is 33.3% to you and me. Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw were the only contributors anywhere close to their normal selves. The supporting cast wasn't getting pressured into awful shots as much as they were missing reasonable ones. Again, though, New Orleans deserves credit for not letting anyone go off completely open. Part of the woes of the supporting cast were mental as well. Jones, Blake, Outlaw, and Jack all started passing up shots they should have taken blindfolded. It wasn't every shot but between them they missed five or six good opportunities to score that we never made up. In short they knew they were off-kilter and they succumbed instead of overcoming. That hasn't happened often. One would guess the mental fatigue of this trip is as wearing as the physical.
One of our major problems was not adjusting to the flow of the game. The referees started blowing whistles like crazy in the second quarter. That was our signal to drive the lane. Most times we did we ended up with free throws. But we didn't do it near often enough. There were way too many jumpers for the style of game being played.
Also we utterly failed to take advantage of both Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson having off nights. We did a decent job shadowing them but we left Jannero Pargo free to the tune of 24 points, a game and season high.
On the positive side we played an amazing first quarter until the White Unit watched the air go out of their sails. Had this been anything near a normal game from the bench we could have been right in it. We also stayed right with them in rebounding up until the late game, which is no easy task. We didn't turn the ball over either.
It wasn't a horrible game and needs to be kept in perspective. Before this season this kind of outing would not have been remarkable in the least. At this point we can say it's fairly abnormal. 3-4 on the road trip is nothing to cry over. As Mike Barrett said, that's the point of winning all of those home games earlier on...you buy yourself some cushion for trips like this.
--Brandon and Lamarcus get lumped in together tonight, as they mirrored each other. Each had good moments, both ended up with reasonable stats (LMA 17 points and 8 rebounds, Brandon 14, 7, and 6 assists) but neither one was able to fully capitalize on their opportunities. It looked like Blazer Star Lite out there...a real struggle. Under similar circumstances (and with a little help from their friends) they probably could have added 5 points apiece plus some miscellaneous goodness. Here's something to remember: though both are second-year players neither one played a full season last year. Brandon played in 57 games and Lamarcus averaged 22 minutes in the 63 games he played. I'm beginning to suspect that Lamarcus, in particular, may be hitting the wall. Everything he's doing looks a quarter step slow and an inch or two off. This is not as true of Brandon but I bet he has to face the same problem before this season is over. I would expect them to have a harder time from here on out when the schedule is brutal.
--Steve Blake, on the other hand, absolutely lit it up on both ends of the court. This was one of his best, most complete games in recent memory. He was 5-10 from the floor, 4-9 from distance, and ended up with 15 points and 5 assists while playing some credible defensive sequences against Chris Paul, especially in the first half. Bravo!
--Joel Przybilla came out like a runaway train, scoring inside, blocking shots, and rebounding. Unfortunately neither he nor the Blazers could keep the momentum going. We fell behind and couldn't abide the lack of offense. He received a few passes inside and couldn't do anything with them. In short, he ended up with his usual 20 minutes and wasn't able to make as big of an impact as his first five minutes promised.
--Martell had another night where he just couldn't get anything going. His first two shots of the game seem pretty important to Martell lately. If he doesn't connect it's going to be a long night. He only played 23 minutes. He ended up with three made free throws, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 nifty blocks.
--Travis got a pretty good 26 minutes of run but never really ventured into Super Trout territory. That was unfortunate, as this game was begging for him to take over. His 5-11 shooting was fine but his drawing 6 foul shots (making 4) was better. 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, a steal, and a block was his line for the night.
--Channing Frye couldn't hit a shot, which crippled us a little on offense. He did help us stay close rebounding though, garnering 6 in 17 minutes. You have to respect that.
--Jarrett Jack only got 18 minutes, largely because he never hit a shot. He managed only 1 point and we can't win like that. The curse of Chris Paul strikes him again.
--James Jones didn't have a bad game at 11 points but he missed some shots he normally makes and he seemed a little flat in the non-shooting departments.
One Sentence Game Summary
Come on home, boys.