JDefense with John DeShazier

March 28, 2013

It’s neither too little, nor too late.

It never is when we’re talking about progress and hope, the former of which the Hornets have shown and the latter, of which they’ve generated, during their most recent five games.

So far during the final quarter of the season – specifically, the last 20-game stretch – New Orleans is 3-5. To further narrow the sample size, the team has won three of its last five during a current seven-game home stand. And each of those wins was over a playoff team, including a pummeling of Denver to crash the Nuggets’ 15-game winning streak.

Does that sound like a team that’s mailed it in? That’s playing out the string? That’s more focused on frolicking in Maui than Friday vs. Miami?

Absolutely not. Instead, it sounds more like a team out to prove to itself that even though it doesn’t have a playoff seed to play for, it still has plenty of incentive to play.

Losses to the playoff-bound Warriors and Clippers bookended the wins and in those respective games, the Hornets first couldn’t make a shot and then had trouble defending them. But wins over Boston, Memphis and Denver were as good a three-game stretch as the Hornets have had this season.

None of the three scored more than 86 points against New Orleans. None out-rebounded New Orleans. All were held to a combined 42 percent from the field.

One, Boston, was finished off by No. 1 pick Anthony Davis, who trudged his way through illness to tip in the game-winner in an 87-86 decision, off an offensive rebound with less than a second remaining. Another, Denver, was pasted 110-86 in a game the Hornets played without their starting backcourt, with three rookies on the floor for the opening tip.

The three-game streak was another sprinkle of promise on top of this non-playoff season, another reason to believe the Hornets have more pride and character than to play out the string and be satisfied that they wear an NBA uniform and receive a nice salary to do so.

So far, the last leg of this race looks encouraging. The Hornets can’t make up enough ground to catch the frontrunners but it’s nice to see that they don’t appear willing to concede any more of it, either.

It’s not too little, or too late, to show progress and spur hope. It’s never too late for that.