New Orleans has won their last 10 games and are 12-2 for the month of January. They have a record of 31-16 and are just percentage points behind 3rd place Dallas in the Western Conference. This will be the 3rd game with the Hornets this season. Back on November 21st, the Hornets beat the Kings in Arco 75-71. The 2nd game was played in New Orleans and the outcome was the same with the Hornets prevailing 94-91. In the first game the Kings were held to 15 pts in the 4th quarter and in the 2nd game they only scored 14 pts in the final quarter.
There’s very little in common between the November team and todays Kings. Luther and Tyreke started in the backcourt and Sammy, Carl and Donte started in the frontcourt with Donte the leading scorer and Luther second. For New Orleans this was the last win of their 11-1 start to the season. After which they became completely normal or should I say beatable and went 7-13; only to turn 180 degrees and go 13-2 in their latest winning streak.
The Kings caught the Hornets in the middle of their losing streak, but on the 2nd game of a back-to –back for the Kings. Coach Westphal wasn’t yet into his end of the year starting lineup with Garcia at SF, but Beno, Tyreke, Cousins, and JT were starting along with Donte. Chris Paul and Marco Belinelli started in the backcourt for New Orleans, with David West, Omeka Okafur, and Trevor Ariza in the frontcourt. Tyreke and Beno had excellent games scoring 22 and 20 respectively, but again the Kings turned the ball over 15 times and lost the battle of the offensive boards. Plus they sent the Hornets to the FT line 30 times to the Kings 12 and we ended up being outscore from the charity stripe by 15.
Well this time around the Kings are again on the 2nd game of a back-to-back, and the Hornets are the hottest team in the NBA and have 2 days rest since beating GS on Wednesday. New Orleans is in the middle of the pack offensively, but they are the 3rd best defensive team. They play at the slowest pace in the league, barely 91 possessions per game. They are right on average in FG%, 3P% and FT%, and they are average in Turnover Rate and Offensive Rebounding Rate. About the only place where they don’t seem to be average is in their win%.
Defensively, they have the 2nd best Defensive Rebounding Rate, but slightly above average in steals and blocked shots when you take into account their low pace. Paul gets a lot of help from his bigs with steals which turn into fast break points, and along with their offensive boards creates extra FG opportunities. When you play at a low pace, every lost possession and 2nd chance opportunities from offensive boards become that much more devastating.
During their current 10 game winning streak, Paul has been right on his seasonal average of 16 pts / 9 assists but he has been shooting 50% from the 3pt line. Belinelli is also on his average of 8.5 pts / 1.3 rebs and 40% shooting from three, and both are shooting 90% from the FT line. Ariza is averaging 12.8 pts/ 6.4 rebounds and is shooting 39% from three. West has been scoring 20 pts /8.3 rebs / 1.4 blocks, and Okafor is scoring 12 pts /12 rebs/ 1.7 blks. Marcus Thorton, Jarrett Jack, Willie Green, Jason Smith, and Quincey Pointdexter are their main reserves.
I’m going to take a wild leap and say that I don’t think it was the Hornets defense that held Atlanta to 59 pts and 29% FG shooting, nor was it the only reason San Antonio was held to 72 pts on 36% from the field. But, New Orleans did hold 7 of their last 10 opponents to less than 90 pts, so obviously defense is a major part in their success. And, 3 of the 5 closest games were in games were the pace was 97 possessions or more which is more in the zone of the Kings and out of the Hornets comfort zone. Obviously, the Kings can’t force the Hornets to play at a faster pace, but getting off to a fast start and making New Orleans play catch up might take them out of their game. The pace of the prior two games was 92 and 93, and we were within 4pts and 3pts in the two games.
In our most recent match, the Kings won the inside scoring battle shooting 18-34 in the paint to New Orleans 16-33. I think our defense in the paint has gotten a lot better if the Lakers game is any indication. Without sounding like a broken record, we need to win the battle on the offensive boards, and deny the Hornets easy baskets down low. I don’t think I’m just stoked over the Lakers victory, because I think that the recent play of Dalembert and Cousins on the defensive end will give the Kings the advantage in this game. I also expect the Kings to score more than 15 pts in the 4th quarter. The Hornets first winning streak ended after a win against the Kings, and I think it’s only fair that the current streak ends with a loss to the Kings. Go Kings.