Hornets’ defensive success cast from the Spurs’ mold

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In the last decade of basketball, there have been few forces more power than the San Antonio Spurs’ defense. That vaunted defense has regressed in recent years, but from 2000-2007 (and, for that matter, from 1997-2000), San Antonio never allowed more than 99.7 points per 100 possessions, a mark that routinely put the Spurs’ defense atop the league. Funny how that happens when the efforts of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich are combined. Pick and rolls were smothered, driving opponents were pushed into the help, and the glass was thoroughly cleaned.

It’s a recipe that, though lacking in the specific stylings of Duncan and Pop, may seem oddly familiar to fans of the New Orleans Hornets.

In his analysis of New Orleans’ defensive success in their hot start thus far, Ryan Schwan of Hornets 24-7 expertly identified a few defensive elements that run parallel between the 6-0 Hornets and the infamous Spurs. Stylistically, New Orleans is following the San Antonio model, by opting for a limiting, reactive defense rather than a completely smothering one. The Hornets aren’t jumping every passing lanes and swarming opponents with double teams; they’re playing smart, conservative defense and forcing opponents into specific types of contested shots. The Hornets have forced their opponents into low-percentage looks, limited second chance opportunities, and kept their fouls down for good measure. All with Monty Williams and Emeka Okafor standing in for two surefire Hall-of-Famers, and an inspired team effort by the Hornets filling in the gaps.

At this stage, Chris Paul is an easy pick for MVP, but it’s New Orleans’ Spursian defensive success that has pushed them to the top of the league. It probably makes Popovich blush. Y’know, if Pop blushes.

Lonzo Ball finishes one-handed alley-oop on Willie Cauley-Stein (video)

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So much attention is paid to Lonzo Ball‘s father, jumper and passes. Those are the major storylines for the Lakers rookie.

But he has such a diverse skill set, and this is absolutely part of it. Ball is a savvy off-ball cutter in the halfcourt with the athleticism to get above the rim and finish alley-oops.

But finish them over 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein, who was tracking the play (though slightly late)? That’s an eye-opener, even in the Kings’ 113-102 win.

Marc Gasol makes 3/4-court shot just after buzzer (video)

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When Marc Gasol‘s 3/4-court attempt went through the net, it seemed to barely matter the ball left his hands just after the first-quarter buzzer. After all, the Grizzlies led the Mavericks by 15, anyway.

Turns out, Memphis really needed that basket.

Watch Knicks string together 28-0 run against Raptors

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Toronto has been the second best team in the East this young season. Not that anyone is really convinced they will be called that by the time we get to the playoffs (or even the All-Star break, or even Christmas), but for the first 16-18 games of the season their new move-the-ball offense had them at 11-5 and looking solid.

Wednesday night the Knicks dismantled the Raptors.

Especially in the third quarter when the Knicks went on a 28-0 run to blow the doors off the Raptors (video above). The Knicks dominated the third 41-10, when Toronto shot just 1-of-16 from the floor.

New York is gaining confidence with each win this season, they are a fun team to watch that is starting to find an identity (now that a certain three-sided shaped one is not being forced upon them). Kristaps Porzingis is a monster, and while the Knicks overpaid the market for Tim Hardaway Jr. he has lived up to his contract this season. With rookie point guard Frank Ntilikina showing some nice defense and playmaking skills as a rookie (although he is undoubtedly still a work in progress), you can see a path to a strong future unfolding. There are real reasons for hope in New York. Someone just keep James Dolan distracted and away from the basketball operations side of the building.

Devin Booker forces OT with deep turnaround buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but Bucks beat Suns (video)

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I’m not sure who benefited from Devin Booker‘s buzzer-beating, overtime-forcing 3-pointer. The Suns still lost to the Bucks, 113-107. The extra five minutes featured more of the same relatively bad basketball we’d seen between Phoenix (bad) and Milwaukee (shorthanded) through 48 minutes.

But darn if this shot wasn’t really cool and clutch.