NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams gave the Philadelphia 76ers credit for their defensive play in his team’s deflating 77-62 loss in their NBA game Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena.
And while not taking anything away from the 76ers on Thursday, Williams said he noticed something was amiss when he watched tape of the game. The Hornets (2-2) just weren’t themselves, Williams said.
“We looked at a number of things that are barometers for us, how we push the ball off a miss, how we push the ball off a make — we give our guys a certain time limit — and we were way off,” he said. “Screening was abysmal — guards setting his man up and the big getting a hit, just wasn’t there. We had a foul to give and couldn’t even grab the guy. Things like that just added up to a lot of nonsense.”
One obvious thing missing probably won’t be missing Friday when the Hornets host the Charlotte Bobcats (1-1) . Rookie power forward Anthony Davis, looking like the future star expected of a No. 1 overall draft choice in his first few NBA games, likely will return to action.
Davis has been out under evaluation since suffering a mild concussion in the Nov. 2 game against Utah when rookie guard Austin Rivers inadvertently hit him in the head with an elbow midway of the second quarter. Davis was taken out of the game, then missed Saturday’s victory at Chicago, his hometown, and Wednesday’s loss to Philadelphia.
Williams said the prospect of Davis playing looked good but that he would know more this morning. Davis, who has been doing only non-contact work since being injured, said he hoped he would play and that he has not had concussion-like symptoms of late. A league source said Davis likely would be cleared to play.
Davis’ low-post scoring might have been a factor in a game in which New Orleans shot 33.3 percent and scored just 20 points in the lane.
Against Charlotte (1-1), which won just seven games last season, it would appear the Hornets’ chances would be better. But the addition of sixth-man guard Ben Gordon and Kemba Walker’s insertion into the starting lineup gives the Bobcats a backcourt that will be improved scoring-wise.
The Hornets faced the Bobcats twice in the preseason, but Williams discounted any familiarity from that, saying the lineups are totally different. Like the 76ers, the Bobcats can be expected to bring pressure defensively.
“They play hard, they press more (than last season), they’ve got some energy in their backcourt,” Williams said. “They’ve got size. They’ve got (forward/center Byron) Mullens, who can shoot the ball from deep.”
Charlotte slipped past Indiana 90-89 in its season opener on Nov. 2, in which Walker scored a career-high 30 points. However, the Bobcats were blown out at Dallas the next night, 126-99, with Walker scoring 10 points and Gordon six. Baton Rouge native and former LSU standout Tyrus Thomas has averaged 6.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 18 minutes per game.
The score wasn’t the only blow the Bobcats suffered against the Mavericks. Starting shooting guard Gerald Henderson, a good defender, injured his foot and is expected to miss two to four weeks.
Against Philadelphia, the absence of Rivers also may have hurt the Hornets. He missed the game with a sprained index finger on his left, non-shooting hand. He seemed particularly bothered by the loss. After the game, he was asked how the finger was doing and answered, “Oh, I’m playing Friday night.”
The Hornets aren’t so sure, and a decision is expected today.
Williams says regardless of who plays, his team’s effort has to be much better tonight.
“Nationally televised game, and we came with our tuxedos on,” an analogy the coach has been known to make when the team has played soft in his estimation. “They came with their combat boots, and we didn’t perform well.
“We have to come back with more urgency (tonight). We’ve to to play with more force.”