Hornets three games out of fourth in West

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Approaching the midway point of the season, New Orleans (22-16) is three games out of fourth place in the Western Conference, a slot that would ensure homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Though there obviously is a considerable amount of basketball still to be played in 2010-11, that three-game gap in the standings means the Hornets are now closer to fourth place in the West than ninth. At the moment, Houston (17-21) and Memphis (17-21) are tied for ninth, the position in the race that leaves a club just out of the postseason.

The Hornets will begin a stretch of three games in four days Wednesday by hosting Orlando in the New Orleans Arena (7 p.m.). They’ll fly to Houston on Thursday to prepare for Friday’s visit to the Rockets, then head out afterward to visit the Bobcats on Saturday, before a scheduled off day Sunday. Including Wednesday’s tilt against the Magic, four of the next six games are against the Eastern Conference, prior to five consecutive conference matchups. Here is our weekly look at where the Hornets currently rank in various national website power rankings, out of the NBA’s 30 teams.

NBA.com (11th, same as previous week): “Trevor Ariza has been a key to the Hornets' defensive improvement, but his shooting percentage has decreased each of the last three seasons. Of players that have attempted at least 100 threes this season, Ariza ranks dead last in percentage, making just 26 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.”

ESPN.com (13th, down 4 spots): “So many targets (basically everyone apart from David West) are struggling offensively, so add an asterisk when citing the stat about the Hornets going 14-6 when CP3 has 10 or more dimes and 8-10 when he has less than 10.”

SI.com (11th, up 1 spot): “Remember what an explosive scorer Marcus Thornton could be in the second half of last season? Thornton averaged 20.3 points after the All-Star break and formed a potent rookie backcourt with Darren Collison. The memories are relevant because this year's Hornets desperately need a third scorer to complement David West and Chris Paul, but new coach Monty Williams is an old-school disciple of Gregg Popovich and Nate McMillan and Thornton's disinclination to play lockdown defense has sliced his playing time to 14 minutes per game. In turn, the lack of burn has cut into his confidence and he’s shooting below 40 percent.”