January 31, 2013
A .500 record in January – 8-8, to be specific – might not sound especially significant based on the face value. It’s not quite the progressive step the Hornets wanted to take during the month, and fans have the right to be a little hungrier and to hope for a smidgeon more, especially after the team pulled to within hailing distance of eighth place in the Western Conference standings.
But for a team that was 7-23 in the 30 games played prior to January, 8-8 for the Hornets sounds a heck of a lot better than 6-10 or 7-9 would’ve. A one-win-every-two-games pace is substantially more brisk than the one-win-every-3.3-games stroll the team had been on before January.
Now, I won’t dare gloss over the fact that too often during the month, either New Orleans lost completely, or routinely misplaced, the defensive principles that Coach Monty Williams holds dear. The tale of the tape in the results speaks loudly.
In New Orleans’ eight January victories, it beat opponents by an average score of 99-90 and only one opponent scored more than 100 points. In eight losses, it fell by an average score of 105-96 and every opponent, save one, broke the century mark.
The long and short of that is this: when the Hornets defend, they win. When they don’t, they don’t.
Offense and scoring can be intoxicating and seductive, but New Orleans is a team that needs to finish games with grime under its fingernails from digging in and a cut lip from sticking in its face. It needs not to be sucked into an up-and-down pace, but to control the tempo and to be selective when it pushes the ball. It isn’t blessed with a plethora of 20-point-a-game scorers and one-on-one shot creators and makers. It has to be an unselfish machine that works hard to free its parts for shots.
And the proof of that was January.
The good thing – besides the Hornets raising their winning ratio – is that the Hornets know exactly who they can and should be, and how it exponentially raises their chance to win. When they won, opponents shot 44 percent from the field. When they lost, that number registered at 49 percent.
So, here comes the February slate, 13 games in all, six after the All-Star break when the Hornets should be refreshed and have an even better feel for one another.
It’s another chance for the team to have a winning month, another chance to make an incremental step. And we know they blindly won’t be entering the fray. They’ve created their road map for winning. The task, simply, is to follow it more consistently.