Defense, perimeter shooting falter during streak

Saturday, March 6, 2010
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

What are the primary reasons behind the Hornets’ current four-game losing streak? Other than the obvious – that the team's best player is sidelined – let’s examine a few of the factors that may or may not have contributed to a week in which New Orleans (31-32) went 0-4 against Southwest Division rivals:

• Defense. The Hornets allowed 100-plus points in each loss, only the third time in 2009-10 that they’ve had a stretch of four games or more of doing so. Not surprisingly, during the most recent instance, New Orleans went 1-5 from Jan. 29 through Feb. 5 (you may remember that Chris Paul’s injury took place in the fourth quarter of the Jan. 29 game vs. Chicago). The only other time this season in which the Hornets gave up 100-plus points in four consecutive games or more was Nov. 2-8. New Orleans was just 1-3 during that stretch. The Hornets haven’t been effective enough on offense to play mediocre defense and still win games.

• Three-point shooting woes. Speaking of offense, New Orleans’ accuracy from beyond the three-point arc has been a bit below average during the four-game streak, but actually not that far off the pace for 2009-10. The Hornets shot 34.8 percent on treys this week; their season percentage is 36.0. However, that recent rate was boosted significantly by Marcus Thornton’s red-hot 11-or-21 accuracy from long range (including 6-for-7 vs. the Spurs). The rest of the Hornets went 12-for-45, which is just 26.7 percent.

• Rebounding. The Hornets have been in gradual decline in this department since 2006-07, when they finished with a rebounding margin of plus 2.3 per game. That dipped to plus 1.0 in 2007-08, then dropped just below the break-even point last season at minus 0.3. At the moment, New Orleans’ rebound margin is minus 2.2, the Hornets’ lowest rate since the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. During the current losing streak, that stat has actually improved slightly, at minus 2.0.