This is the 4th and final meeting between the Kings and Hornets. New Orleans holds a 2-1 lead in the series and won the series last season 2-1. The Hornets won the first game in Sacramento 75-71 back on Nov. 21 and followed up that game with a victory in New Orleans 94-91 on Dec. 15th. Back to Arco when it still was Arco at the end of January, the Kings won 102-96 to end the Hornets 10 game winning streak.
In the first game, Donte Greene recorded a team-high 15 points and tied Sammy with a team-high 10 rebounds. Sacramento grabbed 51 rebounds and outshot the Hornets, 38.7 to 32.2 percent from the field. But the Kings blew the game with 22 turnovers, with 4 each from Head, Dalembert and Cousin, and 3 each from Greene, Landry and Evans. Luther started and scored 11 pts on 4-4 shooting with 5 rebounds and 1 assist. Beno came off the bench and was 3-7 for 6 pts with 1 reb and 2 asts. Defensively, the Kings held the Hornets backcourt of Paul and Belinelli to 6-24 for 21 pts, although Paul did have 14 assists and 7 rebounds.
In the 2nd game the Hornets rallied from a 23-point third quarter deficit to beat the Kings 94-91. Marcus Thornton added 19 points off the bench, 13 coming in the third quarter. The Hornets outscored the Kings, 53-34, in the second half. Paul and Thornton combined for 31 of the second half points. Tyreke missed the Houston game the day before due to pain from his plantar fasciitis, but returned to score 22 points, four rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Cousins started and led the Kings in rebounding with 7, and the Kings outscored the Hornets from the field and 3pt arc by 12pts. But the Hornets outscored the Kings from the FT line by 15, led by Paul who was 12-13 while the entire Kings team was only 7-12.
In the lone Kings victory DeMarcus Cousins scored a game-high 25 points, 12 rebounds, and a career-high seven assists to lead the Kings to a 102-96 win over the Hornets. With the game tied the Kings when on a 12-0 run early in the 2nd quarter and the Kings never trailed again. The Hornets closed to within 2 in the 4th quarter but the Kings continued to answer with baskets of their own. The Kings shot 50 percent and out rebounded New Orleans, 39-35. The Kings again outscored the Hornets from the field by 18 pts, but the Hornets starters of Paul, Okafor, Ariza, and West were 25-27 from the FT line to led New Orleans to a 12 pt advantage at the charity stripe; 28 of 30 (93%) to the Kings 16-20 (80%).
The Hornets are currently in 7th place in the West, percentage points behind Portland and a game behind Denver. They have a record of 38-29 and are 22-9 at home, but are only 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Hornets only trade at the deadline was the Thornton for Landry trade with the Kings. In Carl’s 8 games with the Hornets he’s averaging 10.4 pts/ 3.8 rebs in just under 24 mpg off the bench.
The Hornets have been streaky all season, starting out 11-1 then going 5-9 prior to the 2nd game with the Kings. Then they went 15-8 with 10 straight going into the 3rd Kings game. Since then they’ve gone 7-11 and 4-4 since the trade deadline beating Minnesota, Memphis and Cleveland on the road and Dallas at home.
Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and David West make up the starting frontcourt with Chris Paul and Willie Green starting in the backcourt. Jarret Jack who came over in the Peja trade in Nov. backs up Paul, while Marco Belinelli backups up Green. Landry plays behind West, while Jason Smith plays behind Okafor and Quincy Pointdexter backs up Ariza.
The Hornets only average 94 pts per game behind West’s 19, Paul’s 16, Ariza’s 11, and 10 each by Okafor, Landry and Belinelli. But, the low points per game are deceiving, because they play at the slowest pace in the league and have the 6th best Deff Efficiency so they don’t need to score a lot of points. They are only average in TS%, 3P%, FT%, Assist Rate and Turnover Rate, and have an almost identical Total Rebounding Rate as the Kings with the Kings holding the advantage on the offensive glass. New Orleans is also only average at the rate at which they get to the FT line, which raises the question ‘Why have they outscored the Kings by a combined 33 pts from the FT line in our previous 3 games?”. The Hornets are 65 of 76 for 85.5% while the Kings are 32 of 47 for 68.1%. In the Kings 2 losses they lost by a combined total of 7 points, but were outscored by 21 points at the FT line.
Beno missed the last 2 games due to the flu and didn’t travel with the team to San Antonio so it’s likely that he won’t play against New Orleans. But, Chris Paul seems to have recovered from his concussion so it’s likely that he will play. Luther Head in particular and the team in general played some pretty good defense against the Spurs, so let’s hope that they can continue that trend in New Orleans.
The Kings big rotation of Cousins, JT and Sammy must cut down on their turnovers; they had 11 of the teams 14 against the Spurs. And, the Kings need to cut down on their fouls. Against the Spurs the Kings outscored another team from the field but were outscored enough at the FT line to lose the game. They’ve done that twice now against the Hornets and I’d prefer if the 3rd time wasn’t the charm. I’m concerned the Sammy’s bad knee will slow him down since he only got 15 minutes in the last game. If it does, I’d almost hope PW gives Donte some minutes on West rather than Jackson. Let’s hope, Thornton doesn’t try and force his game against his old team, and lets his scoring come as part of the offense. Go Sacramento.