April 4, 2013
If you’re keeping score over the final 20 games, the ledger reads five wins, eight losses with seven games remaining in the season for the Hornets. That’s an overall winning pace of 38 percent, a slight bump above the overall percentage of 35, and three wins in nine games against playoff-bound opponents.
More to the point, though, is that we really haven’t learned anything shocking about the Hornets since they began the stretch run on March 9, with a loss at Memphis. Namely, when New Orleans is the aggressor and takes the fight to its opponent, when it exerts force rather than absorbs it, the team fares fine regardless of who’s in uniform and active.
And when it fails to do so, well, the results have been just as predictable in that a double-digit loss has been the norm.
The numbers bear out that statement. Only two of the eight losses have been by less than 10 points, and the average separation at the final margin has been 12, with foes scoring 100 points per game. Contrast that with this: in the most recent seven-game home-stand, during which the Hornets finished 4-3 and posted three consecutive victories over playoff teams, New Orleans only allowed 87 points per game in the wins, won by an average of 13 points and outrebounded opponents by an average of 45-31.
So when players and coaches say they know the style they have to play in order to win, it’s not auto-piloted regurgitation from guys who are trying to say the right things. It’s as true as the bare bones numbers reveal.
The catch, as usual, is to consistently generate the effort that leads to the positive results.
Granted, not every opponent will be held to 46 percent or less from the field, as were the four victims during the recent home-stand. Not every game night will end with an opponent being held to 87 points; sometimes, they’ll bust loose for 105 and 108, as did the Clippers and Heat in their victories at the New Orleans Arena last week.
But the most recent 13 games have, and the final seven will, fortify the fact that when the Hornets initiate rather than react, they totally are a different team.
They’ve been slightly better at it during the final quarter of the season than they were over the first three. That means as of now, they’re finishing stronger. And that’s something positive to hold on to.