Difference in free throws doom Hornets in 101-95 loss to Lakers

Difference in free throws doom Hornets in 101-95 loss to Lakers

Credit: The Associated Press

Los Angeles Lakers point guard Shannon Brown (12) is fouled by New Orleans Hornets guard Marcus Thornton (5) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011.

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wwltv.com

Posted on February 6, 2011 at 12:17 AM

Bradley Handwerger / WWL-TV.com

OPINION

NEW ORLEANS ― Fouls.

Players know them when they see them and generally claim them when they don’t.

Coaches bark at officials to cull them into calling them for their team and against the opponent.

And fans generally think their team doesn’t commit them while the other team constantly does.

Saturday night in the New Orleans Arena, the fans were right. Only, the home team didn’t get the benefit of the doubt.

Kobe Bryant and the Lakers did and minutes after New Orleans lost at home 101-95 for the first time in seven games, few inside the Hornets’ locker room could figure out the discrepancy.

Los Angeles took 27 free throws.

New Orleans only had four, none of which came in the second half.

Hornets head coach Monty Williams, in his regular post-game fireside chat with reporters, couldn’t put his finger on an explanation.

For good reason – an explanation was hard to come by.

"That’s hard to do in a pickup game," Williams said." To me, it’s hard to explain that. I’m choosing my words wisely because I know I could get fined for this, but I just don’t understand that. That’s amazing to me.

"For a game to be that physical and we only get four free throws, I just don’t understand."

The crew of Derrick Stafford, Mark Ayotte and Zach Zarba went way off the grid for how they normally call games.

Heading into the game, statistics showed that Stafford called fouls 50-50. Zarba was 50.9 to 40.1 in favor of the home team. And Ayotte was the farthest apart, generally calling fouls 52 percent of the time on the road team to those called on the home team.

But Saturday night, the home-standing Hornets were whistled for 22 fouls. Los Angeles fouled the Hornets only 11 times and in the second-half, apparently none were worthy of foul shots.

David West, who picked up three first-half fouls before getting a fourth foul early in the third quarter, had only one explanation.

Those who were wearing the gold jerseys and shorts weren’t the Lakers and don’t have names like Bryant, Gasol and Fisher stitched on their backs.

"I think it comes down to the name on the front of the jersey and the name on the back of the jersey," said West, who spent much of his time on the bench in the second half. "They get the benefit of the doubt. It’s just what we have to deal with. We know that. We just have to move on. That’s a crazy discrepancy."

Added All-Star point guard Chris Paul: "It’s crazy if you look at the box score afterwards and we only shot four free throws. I don’t know. That’s probably a combination of us not being aggressive enough and I guess that just means one of the best defensive teams in the game of basketball."

Williams likely could have seen this coming.

At one point in the first half of the game, when it was apparent the Hornets weren’t getting calls whereas the Lakers were, Williams planted his feet near the scorer’s table beyond the line marking the farthest away from the bench a coach can go.

Zarba turned to Williams and pointed at him to get into the coaches area.

Williams, a look of incredulity plastering his face, stood stunned for a second, before barking back, "That’s what you’re worried about?"

Apparently it was.

That fouls became the over-riding story of the game afterwards takes away from the fact that New Orleans nearly beat the Lakers, the two-defending champions, with a short bench and down three players.

Center Emeka Okafor (strained oblique muscle) and forward Trevor Ariza (sprained right ankle) are the team’s best defenders. They were also without forward-center Jason Smith (flu-like symptoms), who was starting in place of Okafor the past two games.

In stepped Aaron Gray, who finished with his first-ever double-double as a Hornet in his first start as a Hornet. David Andersen hit his first five shots and finished with 11 points. Marcus Thornton had 14 points.

In fact, the Hornets’ bench outscored the Lakers’ 39-15.

That wasn’t enough to overcome the outlandish difference in free throw attempts.

Very little could have Saturday night.

 

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