When the Hornets traded away Chris Paul, they seemed destined for a high lottery pick in this summer's draft. Then they went out and won their first two games, handily, over the Suns and the Celtics. Well, the fairy tell in New Orleans has come crashing down in their three games since. Three losses to bad teams and all seems to be according to plan once again.
First things first: Yes, I'm aware Willie Green no longer plays for the Hornets, but seeing him wearing any jersey other than the Sixers' always brings a smile to my face, so I took the opportunity. Now, let's get to the game.
You're probably going to hear about how Monty Williams is getting great defense out of his squad of castaways and misfits, and while it's true they're probably overachieving on that end of the floor, they're far from great. They only allow 89 points-per-game, but that's because they play at an absolute snail's pace (87.8 possessions/48 minutes, 29th in the league). Their defensive efficiency (101.3 points/100 possessions) actually ranks them 13th in the league. Basically, they slow the game way down to keep the score down, but really only do a little bit better than average in terms of stopping their opponents from scoring.
Playing at this slow of a pace is actually a pretty interesting gambit for a team that's outgunned nearly every night. There's a school of thought that slowing down against better teams gives bad teams a better chance to win, because there are fewer possessions available for the superior team to stretch their advantage. I don't think Williams is playing the numbers like this, but it may steal him a few games he wouldn't have otherwise won.
In terms of how the Sixers will play them tonight, well, there are two huge keys. Number one, they have to take care of the defensive glass. New Orleans has already had three games with better than a 33% offensive rebounding rate, meaning they're grabbing an o-board on more than a third of their own missed shots. They even had a game with a 43% OREB rate, which is simply unheard of. Even stranger, they still lost the game. If you're wondering how that's even possible, well, they shot 29% from the floor.
The second key is to take care of the basketball. If the game is going to be reduced to less than 90 possessions, you can't cough the ball up on 20 of them and expect to win.
The Hornets are truly a terrible team, with or without Eric Gordon (who hasn't played since hitting a game winner on opening night). They can't shoot, they can't score, they turn the ball over too much, they don't get to the line. This is one of those games where you don't have to do anything spectacular, all you have to do is not hand them the game. If you're looking for a sound strategy, I'd say encourage everyone on their team to shoot from the outside, don't double anyone, and whenever a shot goes up, get a body on Landry, Okafor and Kaman. Those guys are doing most of the damage on the offensive glass. On the defensive end, Ariza is good, Okafor is a presence in the middle, but beyond those two, they really don't have much. Kaman, Belinelli and Landry are all complete sieves. This would actually be a pretty good game for Brand to break out, unless they cross match and put Okafor on him. If they do, Hawes really has no excuse for not dominating with the severely-undersized Landry on him.
This one needs to be a win. The Sixers should absolutely come home above .500, and should stay there for a long, long time.
The tip is at 8pm, Eastern. Game thread will be up a couple hours before.