Tony Parker said something about the Charlotte Hornets after the victory in San Antonio that should be codified. Print it in huge letters and frame it in the locker room.
Paraphrasing Tony’s Law, these Hornets should never have to worry about scoring enough points this season. Their fate will hinge on effort and defense.
Case-in-point, Saturday night’s 129-120 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. When you score 46 points in a quarter and shoot 19-of-42 from 3-point range, the only way you can lose is by not really trying on defense. They were far from perfect defensively, but they got enough stops, and particularly enough steals, to win on the road for just the eighth time this season.
Power forward Marvin Williams, who hit a season-high in points with 27 points, called this an important win. That might sound odd, considering the 18-37 Hawks are lottery-bound, but recall the last time the Hornets were in Atlanta: Back on Nov. 25, they scored 123 points and still lost to a team that was spiraling at the time.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Charlotte Observer
Williams was happy that this time they managed a lead away from Spectrum Center. When I reminded him of what Parker (who couldn’t play Saturday because of a back strain) said after the victory over the Spurs Jan. 4, he said he totally agreed.
“If you look at our season thus far, rarely have we not scored enough to win,” Williams observed. “It’s always how much we’ve given up at the other end.”
That the Hornets are better offensively this season, and maybe not quite as reliable defensively, was somewhat predictable, considering the rotation changes new coach James Borrego made. When Borrego reviewed last season’s Hornets, he saw a problem with their ball movement (bottom third of the NBA in assists) and he felt they needed more scoring punch in half-court situations.
So he made one big change - replacing defensive specialist Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a starter with a better shooter in Jeremy Lamb - and a smaller one in more featuring Malik Monk off the bench. The net effect has been a team more potent offensively this season than defensively.
Does that mean Borrego doesn’t value defense? Of course not. The essence of good coaching is evaluating the talent on your roster dispassionately and distributing minutes in a way that maximizes wins. Borrego saw a flaw and tried a fix. If that fix exposed a different flaw, then he’d address that, too.
There was evidence Saturday of the Hornets’ improvement offensively, not just in all those points, but in the improved ball movement that led to them. They finished with 30 assists, off 48 made baskets.
“All season he’s asked us not to settle,” Williams said of the passing. “Look for that extra pass that can lead to a great shot.”
In striving for that offensive improvement, there have been compromises. I don’t think this team is reliable defensively., which I think was the subtext of Parker’s comments that night in San Antonio. Parker said the way the Hornets played that night at both ends of the court proves they can do it, so they should hold themselves to that standard.
That isn’t easy, but it is attainable.
“We’re not trying to just outscore anybody. For us to win, we have to get stops. And we feel we do have the personnel to defend,” Williams said.
“We feel we can be a good defensive team. We have to have the mental focus and attitude to do it.”
Sounds like Tony’s Law.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell