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Game On: Hawks @ Hornets
Eric Gordon makes his home season debut tonight as New Orleans takes on Atlanta.
After ending 2012 with a road victory in Charlotte, the Hornets open 2013 with a home game against the Hawks. Atlanta is on the second night of a back-to-back, falling last night in Houston 123-104. In the game, Josh smith was limited to just 23 minutes because of a nagging hip injury, one that could be a factor tonight as well. The team clearly misses him when he is out of the game, posting a net rating of -4.2 with Smith on the bench vs. +5.7 with him on the court. Overall, the Hawks are 19-10 and currently the #3 seed in the Eastern Conference, only 2 games back of Miami for the top spot. This game will be a tough one for the Hornets, but with Eric Gordon back, it’s one that they can win. Let’s see how it can become a reality.
3 Keys to the Game
1) Get to the free throw line. The Hawks allow the league’s lowest free throw rate at just .224 free throw attempts per field goal attempt, one of the many reasons for their strong performance this season to date. The return of Eric Gordon couldn’t be better timed, since he’s the best on the team by far at drawing contact inside. Against Charlotte, Gordon made just 5 of 13 shot attempts, but earned 14 free throws which more than made up for it. If he can do something similar against Atlanta, the Hornets should have a chance to win.
2) Limit turnovers. It seems cliche, but Atlanta forces the 4th highest opponents’ turnover rate in the NBA at 16.8%, so it’s even more important tonight. Relentless ball pressure from the Hawks’ guards as well as Smith frequently lead to fast break points for Atlanta, as they are tied for 5th in the NBA with 16.8 fast break points per game and are tied for 6th in the league with 17.6 points off of turnovers per game. The Hornets give up the 7th most points off of turnovers per game (17.5), so they will need to be extra careful with the ball in this one.
3) Defend the 3-point line. The Hawks are 7th in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 37.9% and shoot tied for the 4th most 3-pointers per game (23.4). The Hornets give up the 4th highest 3-point percentage in the NBA (37.8%), so this is a match-up that clearly does not favor the home team. If Atlanta gets hot from long range, it could be a long night for New Orleans.
Tip-off is at 7 PM, and tickets are still available. See you in the Hive!
Monty Pregame Video