Refuting Playoff Inexperience and Previewin’ a Game

Published: March 25, 2008

Before we get to the game preview, I wanted to address an irritation.  A lot of analysts and commentators have been picking the Hornets as a first round casualty this offseason.  None of them can cite a basketball reason why that would be so, and instead they cite "playoff inexperience".  It's a pretty common refrain – teams that reach the playoffs have to pay their dues before getting very far in them.

In the case of the Hornets, it's crap.  They are not the standard team that just managed to get into the playoffs with a low seed.  This team is on pace to win 55 wins, and has established a top 5 scoring differential, which as I've said before, has a strong correlation to playoff success.

Still, in order to refute the charges, I went back and collected every team in the last 15-20 years that earned 50 or more wins one year after having been out of the playoffs.  Here they are:

1st Round and Out

  • 93-94 Magic(50-32), Swept by Pacers
  • 03-04 Grizzlies(50-32), Swept by Spurs
  • 06-07 Rockets(50-32), Jazz won in 7
  • 93-94 Warriors(50-32), Swept by Suns

2nd Round

  • 04-05 Sonics(52-30), Spurs won in 6
  • 97-98 Spurs(56-26), Jazz won in 5
  • 01-02 Pistons(50-32), Celtics won in 5
  • 01-02 Mavericks(53-29), Spurs won in 5

Conference Finals

  • 06-07 Jazz(51-31), Spurs won in 5
  • 04-05 Suns(62-20),Spurs won in 5
  • 97-98 Pacers(58-24), Bulls won in 7
  • 88-89 Suns(55-27), Swept by Lakers
  • 91-92 Cavaliers(57-25), Bulls won in 6

NBA Finals

  • 01-02 Nets(52-30, Under Byron Scott, no less), Swept by Lakers

As you can see, usually the team gets past the first round.  And if you look at those records in the first round, you'll also see those teams probably weren't as strong as this Hornets team.  Even taking into account the strength of the Western Conference, nothing I see above supports the idea of playoff inexperience being a valid reason the Hornets would get dropped early.  So screw you, nay-sayers.

It does look like it would be a historical event should the Hornets win it all.  Something to gun for, right?

Game Preview
Matchup: Hornets(47-21) @ Pacers(29-41)
Off Efficiency: Hornets 108.5(6th), Pacers 103.2(18th)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 102.3(5th), Pacers 104.9(16th)
Pacer Blogger: Indy Cornrows

Tonight the Hornets visit one of my old haunts, Indiana, wanting to kick off a 6-game Eastern Conference roadtrip on a good note.  The Pacers are on a bit of an upswing, having won four in a row, but that success is mitigated by the beaten teams being the Knicks, Bobcats, Timberwolves and Bulls.  Still, this team is fighting to get that last playoff spot out East(if you can call what's occuring out there 'fighting') and won't just lay down and die.  This team also beat the Hornets during a hot start earlier this season when they hit their three point shots and we missed an appalling 22 shots from deep.  Like I said earlier this week, the Pacers defense is predicated on giving up open threes, so we'll need at least a couple guys hitting from deep to make this team pay for the policy.

The guys need to start this roadtrip with a fire in their belly.  They get Cleveland, Boston, Orlando and Toronto next, and need to feast on the little teams in case they slip against the good opponents on the road.

Byron has told Chris Andersen he'll play sometime this road trip too – so one more thing to look forward to.

Injuries: None for the Hornets.  Yay.  The Pacers are missing the everinjured couple, Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley.

Positional Analysis
Flip Murray v Chris Paul
Advantage: Hornets
When I took a look at Indiana and saw Flip Murray listed as the starting point guard, I did a doubletake, and then chortled as I tried to remember Flip ever passing the ball.  I mean, the guy is capable of running an offense – if the offense is Flip dribbling, dribbling, shooting, missing.  

Paul is pretty good.  He should be able to keep up.

SG: Mike Dunleavy v Morris Peterson
Advantage: Pacers
I have a suspicion that Dunleavy is the default point guard when Flip is on the floor.  The much-maligned Dunleavy has a diverse set of skills, a nice stroke and can make offensive contributions.  He'd be an excellent scoring sixth man on a good team.  Too bad he's the primary option for the Pacers. Peterson is in an extended slump, and though his defense remains good, his offense is making it harder and harder to keep him on the floor for long stretches.  Good thing we've got Bonzi and Julian.

SF: Danny Granger v Peja Stojakovic
Advantage: Hornets
Peja has been in a bit of a shooting slump the last few games, mostly missing on wide open shots.  That  won't keep happening.  Granger is a good defender, but Peja only seems to be bothered by physical and elite defenders like Bowen and Battier, and he's not in their class.  Granger's primary offense is not post-based either, which is the place where Peja's defense is weakest.  As long as Peja is hitting a little, he'll own this spot.

PF: Troy Murphy v David West
Advantage: Hornets
Troy is slow, but makes up for it by hovering far away from the basket and hitting lots of long range shots.  He's going to pull West away from the basket a lot, and probably hit a few three's, but there isn't a chance in hell he'll be able to stop West.  There isn't a frontcourt player on the Pacers who can.  Expect double teams.

C: Jeff Foster v Tyson Chandler
Advantage: Hornets
Offensively Jeff Foster makes Tyson Chandler look like Amare Stoudamire in the post, but he is one of the few big men in the NBA who can match Tyson's rebounding skill.  It'll be a hard battle down low, but Tyson does have an advantage in athleticism.

Advantage: Hornets
The Hornets bench trio of Pargo, Wells and Wright continue to be effective as a group.  If Andersen can play, our bench will be great.  The Pacers have a good backup at the swing positions in Shawne Williams,  but the rest of their bench is weak.  Ike Diogu doesn't get any time despite having been pretty promising, and Marquis hasn't done much since coming over from Dallas and getting injured.  The Hornets 2nd unit defense should have little trouble holding these guys down.

Hornets win 109-97.

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