Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hornets Lose to Rockets in Houston

During the Hornets’ 3-0 start to the season, they racked up a league-best average of 107 points per game, while defeating Golden State, Phoenix and Cleveland. Six games later, the NBA’s premier offensive attack of Week 1 of the regular season has become a major weakness.
The Hornets were held under 90 points for the fifth time in their last sixth games, resulting in a wire-to-wire Rockets victory. Houston (6-4) moved a half game ahead of New Orleans (5-4), into first place in the Southwest Division.
Why have the Hornets experienced such a drastic downturn in their offensive production? The player and ball movement have stagnated at times, but simply put, we're also seeing several Hornets shoot poorly and miss open shots that they normally make. New Orleans will have three days of practice to try to make adjustments prior to Wednesday's home game vs. Sacramento. In the meantime, let's take a look at how individual Hornets have fared in the shooting department through the first nine games:
Chris Paul: He’s shooting exactly 50 percent from the field (61-for-122) after his 2-for-10 outing at Houston. Fifty percent is obviously outstanding for any guard, but especially a point guard. The only PGs who consistently shoot this well are Steve Nash, Deron Williams and Jose Calderon.
Morris Peterson: He’s not taking as big of a chunk of his attempts from three-point range in comparison to last season. Overall, he’s shooting 42 percent from the field, and 30 percent from three-point range. He’s a 37 percent career three-point shooter.
Peja Stojakovic: His 1-for-5 in Houston continued a recent shooting slump. For the season, he’s at 37 percent, almost 10 percent below his career number.
David West: A bit below his norm, shooting 46 percent thus far. His jumper has been somewhat inconsistent. West shot 51, 48 and 48 percent over the past three full seasons, respectively.
Tyson Chandler: Hornets TV analyst Gil McGregor noted Saturday that opponents seem to be focusing more on preventing the “Crescent City Connection” alley oop, a play that resulted in countless dunks for Chandler last season. It was back in Houston, though, three times. Chandler is always going to shoot a high percentage based on the close-range nature of his attempts, and is at 62.5 percent right now.
James Posey: The team’s overall dip in shooting hasn’t affected the free-agent pickup. He’s made numerous big shots in the fourth quarter. He’s been the team’s best three-point shooter, just under 50 percent.
Rasual Butler: Saturday’s 1-for-7 was a rarity for Butler, who has been an excellent marksman off the bench and in fourth quarters. He’s 10-for-23 from three-point range (43 percent).
Hilton Armstrong: He’s 12-for-28 (43 percent). Shot 54 percent as a rookie and 45 percent last season.
Devin Brown: Went 5-for-10 in Houston and played a second straight solid game at backup point guard. He was 5-for-20 from the field prior to Saturday, though, so his season rate is still low (33 percent).
Julian Wright: Played double-digit minutes again Saturday, this time logging 17. He’s 5-for-14 overall in five appearances.
Mike James: Was 8-for-25 (32 percent) from field prior to being bumped out of rotation by Brown on Friday vs. Portland.
Melvin Ely: Has only played in two games and is 4-for-9.

Obviously nine games is an extremely small sample. Making sweeping judgments on anything through the equivalent of 10 percent of the season doesn't make sense. Still, if you go through the list, you can begin to see why the Hornets are not producing offensively the way they did in 2007-08, at least to this stage.
The good news is that veteran players tend to return to their career norms as the season progresses. For several New Orleans players, you have to believe they will begin to shoot the ball much better, based on their track records.

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