Game On: Hornets Visit the Heat

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Published: December 8, 2012
Game On Henry

The short-handed New Orleans Hornets perhaps find themselves ready to take advantage suddenly struggling Heat, who are on their first losing streak of the season (2 games). This is by no means claiming that the Hornets are favored, but the gap between the Gordon+Davis-less Hornets and the team hosting them on the border of Biscayne Bay.

The source of the Heat’s struggles, interestingly enough, mirrors many of those of the Hornets. Most notably, both teams suffer are very sensitive on both sides of the court to three-point shots. The Heat have allowed 156 threes in 17 games, ~9.18 / game for second most allowed in the NBA, while the Hornets have allowed 172 threes in 18 games, ~9.56 / games for the first most allowed in the NBA. Adjusting for the pace difference (92.7 compared the Hornets NBA lowest 88.1), the disparity in made threes is shown to be under-represented here by about half a three. So, if history and averages matter, we are spotting this team 3 points.

The Hornets allow and at least 1 additional made three, on average, than every team in the NBA except for the Heat, Nuggets and Bobcats, while the Heat can only add the Rockets to the list. Maybe the Heat can spot a team at least 3 points (the NBA average is ~7.02 made threes per side per game), but Hornets can not, and in this game they are spotting the points to the Heat who are not reciprocating as is their norm when playing other teams.

The above is all about three point defense, or the lack thereof. If this is discounted as just saying that neither team defends the three well, then it boils down to how well the teams can shoot the three. The Heat make threes at 41.1%, second in the NBA and well above the NBA average of 35.7%. The Hornets also shoot the three well, but not as well, sinking 39.3% of their attempts.

This may not seem like a big deal on its face, but the difficulty for the Hornets lies in how the teams take their threes. The Heat have 4 players who both are expected to play and have played significant minutes (Lewis is sort of in the doghouse), shooting the three at over 40%: Allen (33 of 69), Battier (27 of 59), James (25 of 57), and Miller (16 of 38). Plus, they have James Jones and the man being paid over 20% of the Hornets’ salary this season, Louisiana’s own Rashard Lewis, who are capable three point shooters just waiting to display their wares.

The Hornets, however, have Ryan Anderson who has hit 60 of his 138 attempts this season.

See how small that paragraph is? It says so much for being so small, sitting there in the shadow of the one above it.

The Hornets have Roberts (10 of 25), but his attempts do not instill great confidence in the shooting percentage. Following Roberts are Miller (8 of 21), Mason (19 of 52), Vasquez (18 of 50), and Rivers (10 of 30). While there is nothing magical about a 40% 3 point shooter that a 39.9% shooter fails to have, the arbitrary line shows just how capable each team is of exploiting the weaknesses of the other.

What does all this mean? It means the Heat should slap James and maybe Battier on Anderson while the Hornets have the ball. If the can stop Anderson, the Hornets will need some form of Grace to win the game.

As on most night the Hornets have the business end of the spear pointed at them, and they will need their threes to come at a high volume and be made at a high rate. They’ll also need the Heat’s threes to not fall. In the Wizards loss, the Heat made only 8 of 28 three point attempts while the Wizards were performed at the NBA average. In the Knicks loss, the Heat performed around the NBA average in terms of made threes but only took 16 attempts. The Knicks hit 18 of 44, however.

That’s the model. That’s the lesson. Don’t let the rebounding issues from last night scare you. The Grizzlies are built to do this and the Heat just are not, and the data bears that out.

The general problems in the Hornets back court persist, of course, and the Heat have Wade, so pile that on, and there’s no help there. The Hornets just have to play their best and hope for the worst from the Heat in that respect. They will also have to protect the ball, as the matchups could allow the Heat to leap past their lackluster forced turnover rate.

Even if the Hornets do not win this game, forcing the Heat away from three would be a small victory. This is something the Hornets need work on, regardless. By forcing the team closer to the inside, they have the best chance of keeping the game close, and perhaps Lopez will have a surprise for everyone, being the `true center’ in the game.

The game is on at 6:30 CST (-6 UTC), broadcast on Fox Sports New Orleans and NBATV.

Also, Henry gets the nod for the image tonight in honor of his nice game last night.

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  1. [...] Hornets managed to keep the Heat from taking advantage of poor three point defense, but the Hornets also failed to take advantage of the same weakness of the Heat. This was in part [...]