Hornets.com postgame: Spurs 99, Hornets 95
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
Spurs (1-0), Hornets (0-1)
It was over when... Al-Farouq Aminu's long three-pointer from the left wing caromed off the rim, enabling San Antonio to maintain its four-point edge and dribble out the final few seconds. For most of Wednesday's regular season opener, New Orleans played very good basketball, but ultimately fell just shy against the defending Southwest Division champions. The Hornets will be back on the home floor Friday to face another 2011-12 West playoff qualifier, the Utah Jazz.
Hornets MVP: Aminu turned in his best performance in his season-plus with New Orleans, scoring 17 points on 8-for-16 shooting. All of his eight baskets came on either dunks or layups, appearing to show that the small forward has gained a better understanding of how he can get high-percentage shots. By any statistical measure, Aminu was a below-average perimeter shooter a season ago, but his athleticism and leaping ability make him tough to stop when he gets a head of steam toward the basket. “Coach (Monty Williams) talked to me about how he wants me to attack the rim,” Aminu said. “That was all I was trying to do.”
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: You couldn’t have reasonably expected any better performance than this from Jason Smith after his three-week layoff due to a shoulder injury. Smith finished with 12 points and six rebounds in only 17 minutes, providing a jolt of energy whenever he was on the floor. “I just tried to go out and play hard,” Smith said. “I worked hard to get back. I wanted to get back for the home opener. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get the win, but we played hard out there.”
The buzz on… the rotation in Game 1. With the starting lineup not even set until the morning Wednesday, there remained significant questions about how Williams would sort out his rotation. He essentially went with a nine-player rotation against the Spurs, with Roger Mason, Ryan Anderson, Smith and Darius Miller coming off the bench. It’s only one game, but the reserves were significantly more effective as a group than the first string. Every member of that quartet was a double-digit positive in plus-minus other than Mason (who was near break-even at minus 1). Meanwhile, the starters were all on the negative side of the ledger. Though a one-game sample is certainly not one to draw sweeping conclusions from, there doesn’t appear to be a ton of difference in talent between the two groups. Also, on one of the youngest teams in the league, a group of backups that includes veterans Mason, Anderson and Smith actually has a greater amount of experience. With Smith back on the floor and Anderson logging 29 minutes, reserve forwards Lance Thomas and Hakim Warrick received DNPs. Thomas played a lot during preseason, but the Hornets are deep in the frontcourt when at full strength.