Thirty-five games in, NOLA tied for sixth in West

Tuesday, January 4, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

By the end of next week, we’ll be at the official halfway point of the New Orleans Hornets’ 2010-11 regular season, with 41 of the 82 games played. A campaign that began with uncertainty and lessened outside expectations has been a roller-coaster ride on and off the floor thus far, including an 11-1 start, followed immediately by a 3-9 stretch. Since mid-December, however, the Hornets appear headed back in a positive direction, winning seven of their last 11 games.

Wednesday’s home game against Golden State (13-21) provides New Orleans (21-14) with a second straight opportunity to add to its success in Louisiana against struggling opponents. The Hornets are 14-4 in the New Orleans Arena, including 8-0 vs. clubs currently below .500.

The majority of preseason prognosticators tabbed the Hornets as a non-playoff team, but at the moment they’re in a virtual tie for sixth place in the Western Conference with the Denver Nuggets (20-13). Although Denver officially has a narrow edge in winning percentage, New Orleans technically holds the tiebreaking edge with its Oct. 29 head-to-head victory. The two clubs meet for a second time Sunday in Colorado.

New Orleans’ recent three-game winning streak led to a bump in each of the power rankings we surveyed this week. The following are where the Hornets are listed, with comments provided by each site: (11th, same as previous week):“The Hornets began the week by allowing the Wolves and Lakers to shoot 56 percent, and finished it by holding the Celtics and Wizards to just 44 percent. They won 11 of their first 12 games, lost nine of their next 12, and are 6-4 since. This 12-game stretch concludes with visits from the Sixers and Warriors.” (9th, up 1 spot from 10th): “Does a W in Boston, even when KG or Rondo are out, cancel out an L four nights earlier at ’Sota? Better question: Did you see how much harder Ariza made the Dunk of the Year race with that hammer over JaVale McGee?” (12th, up 3 spots):“Chris Paul, David West and Emeka Okafor have come up big and stabilized the Hornets, who are 5-2 since back-to-back heartbreaking losses two weeks ago threatened to drop them out of playoff position for the first time this season. Although coach Monty Williams preaches defense first, the Hornets need to find a reliable perimeter shooter to supplement West's deadly mid-range game and Paul's efficient but too unselfish scoring. Trevor Ariza, Jarrett Jack and Marcus Thornton are all below 40 percent for the season and Marco Belinelli has been down there, too, since the start of December. With all the poor shooters surrounding him, Paul's average of 9.7 assists per game is equivalent to league leader Rajon Rondo's 13.6 dishing to the likes of Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal.” (13th, up 1 spot): “The team welcomed back bench anchor G Willie Green, who was gone for two weeks to grieve with his family after the death of his sister.”