Game On: Spurs @ Hornets

Published: January 22, 2011

Matchup: Spurs (37-6) @ Hornets(28-16)

Off Efficiency: Spurs 109.4 (1st), Hornets 102.9 (18th)
Def Efficiency: Spurs 101.1 (7th), Hornets 98.8 (3rd)

Pace: Spurs 95.4 (13th), Hornets 91.2 (30th)

After the Hornets took the opening game in this division rivalry, the series has gone downhill for New Orleans. In the last two games, the recaps used the words “demolish” and “crushed” to refer to the how the Spurs attained their victories. To be fair, that’s how most Spurs games have gone this year. They have both the best record in the league and the largest margin of victory.

One way they’ve done it is with superior bench play. As I noted last week, the Spurs had 13 players with a PER over 12.0 on the year compared to only three Hornets who were at the time playing at that level. Things have changed in that regard, as the Hornets now have Marcus Thornton sitting at a PER of exactly 13. He’s really come alive recently, and is the potential spark to a second unit that is going to need all the help they can get.

If the Hornets are going to take this one down, they are going to need someone on the bench to have a strong night, and Marcus seems to be the ideal candidate.


Let’s take a quick look at the home-road split for Marcus Thornton:

Want to know why? It’s people like Thornton’s Thunder, Loud Mike, Hornets Hype, and the rest of you awesome fans who give Marcus a round of applause when he comes in and checks out. Players standing out there on the floor can hear you, and even though they might not acknowledge it while they’re on the court, it obviously has an impact on their mentality, which then affects their performance.


Monty Williams needs to be especially mindful about his substitutions so not to allow one of those 10-0 runs that seem to pop up every so often when the bench takes the floor. Something like that can turn a close game into a stinker in a hurry, and there’s nobody better at executing right now than San Antonio.

The Hornets run the pick and roll as their primary offense, and even though the opposition knows it’s coming, there really isn’t much they can do about it other than try to limit inside scoring and instead just let guys take jumpers. It’s not a bad strategy, as the Hornets are merely average when their possessions end in a spot up jumper. It’s when the possessions end in layups or dunks that the pick and roll is working most effectively. If the Spurs can limit those easy points, the Hornets are going to be in for a long night on offense. I’m sure Popovic will apply extra defensive focus on cutters, and some throw some traps, zones and switches at Paul in an effort to control him. As usual, the game’s outcome will rest on how CP3 handles it.

The Spurs should and will use Tony Parker to attack Chris Paul on the pick and roll. It’s physically grueling to fight through and around screens all night, and one of the most effective ways to limit Paul is by making him focus on defense. The problem? As you know he’s one of the best defenders in the league in most aspects, but against the pick and roll he’s really taken a step forward this year.

In the past he’s been below league average at defending it, but not anymore. He’s allowing the pick and roll ball handler to score only .83 points per possession this year, good for 82nd in the league. For reference, on offense he’s averaging .98 points per possession this year as the pick and roll ball handler, 8th in the league (Thanks Synergy Sports).

The Hornets should use one of their other guards to chase around Tony, and instead let Paul play free safety to some extent, allowing him to focus on getting steals and causing havoc for the league leading Spurs offense. Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli are both adequate defending the ball handler on the pick and roll, and should be utilized early and often.

I’ll take the Hornets in this one, but it’s going to be a nail biter. Not every game can end like the butt-whooping laid down on Atlanta last night. Also, I’ll be on ESPN’s Daily Dime Chat during the game so come on by and say hello.

Check out JNR’s post about Monty channeling his inner Rex Ryan.


Spurs: George Hill – sprained right thumb (day-to-day), Matt Bonner – sore right knee (day-to-day)

Hornets: Trevor Ariza – ankle tendinitis (day-to-day), Aaron Gray – sprained ankle (day-to-day)

Notes from the Arena

  • Trevor Ariza is dressed and is expected to start


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