The Spurs showed up in New Orleans Monday night to find an empty arena. Playing a bad team in an empty venue never seems to go well for the Spurs, and this was no exception. In addition, the Spurs may have been looking ahead to their Wednesday night bout against the Lakers or their Friday showdown with Memphis. Either way, something went wrong from the get-go.
There were many reasons for the Spurs to play poorly, and it seemed they chose to use all of them. In the first quarter, the Spurs committed seven turnovers. As the Spurs turned it over, the Hornets gained confidence. This was the second game this season that the Hornets were able to start their best lineup; they beat the Mavericks in their first start a few nights ago. The return of Eric Gordon really lifts the Hornets' ceiling and makes them very dangerous. At the end of the first quarter, the Spurs were down 19-24, in what promised to be an ugly game.
The Spurs did not fare much better in the second quarter. Turnovers again did not help the Silver and Black as they committed four more, taking their first half total to 11. The Spurs' ball movement looked sluggish and only produced 11 assists. The Spurs' lethargic play also translated to the boards, where the Hornets grabbed six offensive rebounds that were often turned into second chance points.
The Spurs escaped the first half only down 41-49, which I thought could have been much worse. The Spurs' indifference would need to be challenged during halftime if they were to have a chance at leaving New Orleans with a victory.
The beginning of the third quarter inspired hope. The Hornets began the period with sloppy play and turnovers, seemingly giving the Spurs the window they needed to get back into the game. After a few Spurs baskets, the Hornets rallied for a run of their own, causing Pop to stop the action when the Spurs found themselves down by eight again, 45-53.
More lackluster play followed the Spurs throughout the third quarter until they found themselves down 14, 53-67. It felt like the Spurs spent the rest of the game down by six. I know it actually ranged from five to 15, but it always felt like six to me. The Spurs were consistently just short of winning the game.
The Spurs would make a run and the Hornets would answer. That's how the last two quarters played out. Turnovers continued to plague the Spurs in the second half, which didn't help the comeback. After 11 first half turnovers that helped New Orleans to build the lead, the Spurs finished the game with 19 turnovers, the latter of which served to help the Hornets keep the lead.
I hate the games that you can see coming. From the tipoff, it was apparent that the Spurs were off. I called them lethargic and sluggish, but really the Spurs were just sloppy. I think the effort was there, it was the execution that was missing. I guess it was a lack of concentration. I don't know what to tell you other than it was frustrating to watch. Offensively, the Spurs couldn't avoid turning the ball over and defensively, the Spurs made costly errors during critical moments of their comeback.
This game was a wasted opportunity for the Spurs. With two games against Memphis looming, as well as the Lakers this Wednesday, it would have been nice to pick up this win. Fortunately, no one is playing that well in the West. After winning 17 straight, the Clippers ran out of bad teams to beat and lost two in a row. While the Spurs were busy losing to the worst team in the West, the Thunder lost at home to the worst team in the East. Silver lining: I'd rather lose to the Hornets in New Orleans than to the Wizards at home.
As far as the players performed individually, Tim and Tony both had off games. Each had five turnovers, which as we've been over, greatly contributed to the Spurs' defeat. Very little ball movement and too much one-on-one play resulted in Tony only having 3 assists to go along with his 16 points. As a team, the Spurs finished with just 20 assists.
Manu was the only bright spot for me. He is regaining his old form. It seems that in each of the Spurs' last 10 games, Manu has made a play that makes you stop and think, "I didn't know he could still do that." Tonight, he had a powerful dunk off of two feet that even made the Hornets players give a double take.
The Hornets shot better, they out-rebounded the Spurs, they had more assists and steals than the Spurs and they turned the ball over fewer times. When that happens, it's difficult to win. Let's hope the Spurs win a few of the statistical battles when they play the Lakers this Wednesday. I have a feeling they'll rebound nicely against Los Angeles.
Please visit At the Hive, soon to be In The Gullet (hopefully), for the Pelican's perspective.