COMMENTARY | Coming off one of their best efforts of the season, the New Orleans Hornets were looking for continued improvement as they faced the Minnesota Timberwolves. In their previous game, the Hornets had a chance to win on their final possession, but lost a heartbreaker to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tonight, the Hornets lost 113-102 to the Timberwolves, despite 27 points from Austin Rivers.
Like many Hornets' fans, I questioned New Orleans selecting Austin Rivers with a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Of course, by the time the Hornets drafted Rivers with the 10th overall pick, most of the players I wanted had already been selected. I was most skeptical of New Orleans' desire to convert Austin Rivers from a shooting guard to a point guard.
So far this season, Rivers has struggled for the most part. He has had difficulty maintaining consistency on his outside shots and like all the Hornets, has not defended well on the perimeter. However, I respect Austin Rivers for always playing hard and even when his shooting touch has eluded him, he has driven to the basket and drawn fouls.
However, Austin Rivers finally had his breakout performance in the NBA Friday night versus the Timberwolves. Rivers led the Hornets in scoring with 27 points. Most impressively, he shot 5-6 on three-point attempts. With Eric Gordon out of the lineup, New Orleans needs an outside scoring threat besides Ryan Anderson. If NBA teams have to respect Rivers' outside shot, it will open up the lane for him even more.
Unfortunately, Rivers' 27 points were not enough for New Orleans as the Timberwolves won by 11 points. In what has become a recurring theme for the Hornets, New Orleans gave up 63 second half points. The Timberwolves' talent in both the frontcourt and backcourt gave the Hornets fits.
Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved were a combined 6-7 on three-point attempts for the Timberwolves. Meanwhile, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko combined for 52 points against New Orleans. In fact, Kirilenko ran so many backdoor cuts, it looked like the Hornets were playing an Ivy League team instead of the Timberwolves.
As usual, New Orleans had a couple of impressive individual offensive performances against the Timberwolves. But for the young Hornets to mature and take the next step as a franchise, they must play better defense and learn how to play as hard with the game on the line in the second half as they do in the early stages of most games.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. A loyal New Orleans NBA fan, Patrick was a diehard New Orleans Jazz fan and now cheers for the Hornets. Patrick was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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