Game On: Hornets @ Kings

Published: January 29, 2011

The Hornets head to Sacramento tonight to take on the suddenly red-hot Kings. I say that only half-jokingly because Sacramento actually appears to be playing their best ball of the year, even though they are only 2-5 in their last 7 games. Their two wins, however came at Portland and at LA, as they defeated the Lakers last night 100-95. On top of that, each of the five losses were extremely close and Sacramento could have easily walked away with a victory in any of those games.

They had a 5 point loss to Charlotte, had back-to-back overtime losses to Portland and Golden State, a 2 point loss to Atlanta, and a 4 point loss to Detroit. 2-5, but over those seven games the point differential is only -2. Bottom line is that for the past two weeks this team has been in every contest and they have even shown the ability to surprise playoff caliber teams. Don’t sleep on the Kings.

No single player has been carrying Sacramento through this stretch, instead it seems like somebody new is stepping up every night. Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins show up on a nightly basis, but that third and fourth guy seems to change game in and game out. Last night Omri Casspi and Samuel Dalembert combined for 36 points and 13 rebounds. The game before Landry led the team in scoring. Against Portland, Beno Udrih provided a spark, and so on. The reason Sacramento only has 11 wins this season is because they don’t have consistent players who they can count on night in and night out, but that also makes them dangerous- as they have multiple guys who can go off on any given night.

When the Hornets Have the Ball

The Hornets have played the Kings twice already this year and are only averaging 84.5 points against them on 38% shooting, so obviously they have yet to figure out exactly how they would like to attack this Kings defense. What doesn’t seem to work is attacking Dalembert when he is protecting the rim, as he has 6 blocks in the two contest, but he has probably changed close to two dozen other shots in the 50 minutes he was on the court.

Nothing was working for the Hornets in the first matchup at ARCO until the Hornets found a way to get David West open on two consecutive pick and pops that he drained late in the game to seal the victory. That game took place right after the Peja/Jack swap, leaving the Hornets with no true backup point and the backcourt foursome of Paul, Green, Thornton, and Belly responded by going 8-36 in that game. They had as many turnovers as made field goals. Ugly.

The second game was a tale of two halves that saw the Hornets go down by as many as 23, before Marcus Thornton helped lead a remarkable comeback that had the arena going crazy. Even in that game, however, there was nothing that the Hornets could walk away with when it comes to having found a way to attack this defense. Chris Paul had 22, but 12 of those came from the line. David West was 5-14, Ariza was held scoreless, and Bellineli was only 3-9.

In both games the half court offense was extremely ineffective and the Hornets only looked good when they got out in transition against this Kings team. The Kings have length at multiple positions and that really gives the Hornets trouble if they are not hitting from the outside. Evans and Udrih both make it hard for CP3 to get into the lane, Thompson, Landry, Dalembert, and even Casspi all can do a solid job on D West, and Greene has been all over Ariza in both match-ups.

The Hornets have to look for every chance to run and when they get into half court sets they have to be patient. This team is still a young team and are therefore prone to missed rotations and stupid fouls. Cousins, Dalembert, and Thompson all bailed the Hornets out several times in the last meeting, picking up bad fouls that sent New Orleans to the line, where they had a 15 point advantage in the last contest. Both teams are playing better since the last meeting, but for the Hornets to win this one tonight, they will have to run and they must get free points at the line.

When the Kings have the Ball

Say what you will about Marco’s offense in the previous two match-ups, but his defense on Tyreke Evans has been superb. In the first matchup CP3 was matched up with the physical failing Luther Head and in game two he was on Udrih most of the game, as Monty seemed to favor Marco’s size going against last year’s ROY. So far this season, Tyreke is shooting just 6 of 17 when Belinelli is defending him with 5 turnovers and just 4 assists.

CP3, on the other hand, has gotten burned in the two games against the Kings, as he tends to leave his guy more than usual to look for steal opportunities. Head went 4-4, including 3-3 from distance in game one and Udrih had one of his best games of the year, scoring 20 points on 9-15 shooting in game two. In both games, CP3 locked up late in the game, but he has to know not to give these players can knock down open looks. CP3 is used to going against “name guys” every night at the point guard position, and you can argue that it is human nature to take someone like Udrih for granted when you are used to battling Westbrook and Parker and Nash and Rose and Rondo, etc on a nightly basis, but unless the Hornets want to fall behind again against this team he just can’t do that.

West has actually done a really good job on Landry and Thompson, but the truth is that when Cousins is on his game, the Hornets just don’t have an answer for him. There were stretches in the last game where he was just making Okafor look stupid out there, and that is no slight to Emeka, as Cousins can do that to the best of front lines- as he showed by going for 27 points in just 32 minutes against the Lakers three-headed monster last night. If Cousins gets going, he will demand a double team, and if that happens the Hornets rotations need to be crisp to prevent guys like Casspi and Greene from getting hot.

Other News and Notes:

– Hornets are going for their 11th straight win, which would set a franchise record.

– Normally teams look forward to long home stands, but I don’t think that is the case for Sacramento, as they start out this 6 game stretch with the hottest team in the league, followed by: Boston, Dallas, Utah, San Antonio, and OKC. Ouch!

- Vegas Zone: Hornets are 6 point favorites in this game, with the over/under set at 186.5. I say Kings are in for a let down game after celebrating like the won the title last night in LA, and Monty beats it into the players head that Sacto can beat anyone. I am taking the Hornets and the under. Hornets 97 Kings 87.

– And yes, it is that time again to Caption This Pic – top 3 will be named in the post game write-up with the prize being a chance to explore your creative capabilities and respect from the entire Hornets community! Oh, and P.S.- that’s DeMarcus Cousins just in case you were unsure of which player on this unstable Kings roster would rock a pink backpack with so much pride.


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