NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Tyson Chandler had a rare game without a basket, Peja Stojakovic didn’t hit one 3-pointer and David West had an awful shooting night while turning the ball over three times.
The Hornets looked tense, stressed and sometimes lost on offense in their 100-80 Game 4 loss at San Antonio.
Yet New Orleans coach Byron Scott had other concerns heading into Tuesday night’s fifth game of this deadlocked second-round playoff series.
“We’ve got to understand defense is what got us to this particular point,” Scott said. “We’ve got to come out and make sure we put some pressure on them on the defensive end. … We can’t worry about the offense, to be honest with you.”
Scott’s philosophy is the Hornets must make defense their priority at all times, because getting opponents to miss shots or turn the ball over is what gives star point guard Chris Paul the best chance to push the ball effectively the other way.
The Hornets’ chances of winning plummet when they get stuck in a slower tempo, half-court game, especially against a Spurs team that has mastered that style.
Scott said his players showed a “lack of trust” in the defensive game plan Sunday night, sometimes scrambling to the perimeter to guard the threat of an outside shot, only to be burned by one of Tony Parker’s driving layups or a pass inside to Tim Duncan.
Duncan continually caught passes close to the basket, where he was able to turn quickly and drop in shots off the glass on his way to 22 points.
“It’s just being disciplined. You’ve got to take away layups,” Scott said. “If you’ve got a guy shooting jump shots that are contested, and he makes it, so be it.”
So fed up was Scott with the lack of execution on defense that he asked his players during practice on Monday to tell him how they preferred to guard Duncan and the Spurs’ well-executed pick-and-rolls.
“I felt in Games 3 and 4 they got away from trusting what we we’re doing, so I pretty much put it in their hands,” Scott said. “Whatever we do, basically, they have to feel comfortable out there doing it and they have to have that conviction out there every single time.”
Scott said his players offered a handful of proposals, some of which he liked and some of which he didn’t. They plan to walk through some of those adjustments during Tuesday morning’s shootaround.
The Spurs got a well-earned rest on Monday, when they traveled back to New Orleans.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said he did not expect the Hornets to look as flat as they did Sunday now that they’re back in New Orleans, where they are undefeated in five games this postseason.
“Every game in the playoffs is difficult and for the most part, more difficult on the road than at home, that’s for sure,” Popovich said. “We’re going to have to play a really, really good game to come away with a win” in New Orleans.
Popovich’s major adjustment in this series came in Game 3 in San Antonio. He inserted Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup in place of Michael Finley, and had Bruce Bowen change defensive assignments from Paul to Stojakovic, a perimeter sharp shooter who had five 3s in the Hornets’ Game 2 victory in New Orleans. Parker, in turn, guarded Paul.
The idea was that even if Parker struggled to contain Paul, San Antonio’s defense would improve against the Hornets’ other top scorers, and Paul could not win a game by himself.
For two games in San Antonio, at least, it worked.
“We played at a better pace,” Ginobili said. “It’s easier to do that at home than over there with their fans. So we’re going to have to try and maintain our composure for 48 minutes over there. Don’t let them get in one of those runs where they become really dangerous.”