For the second season in a row, the Hornets are one of the only (the only?) terrible team that isn't tanking. I want the pick, but you gotta like this on a couple of levels, don't you?
« In the NO Podcast Episode 126: Winning Basketball?
Game On: Nuggets @ Hornets
New Orleans will look to add to their recent hot streak with a third consecutive home win when they face off against Denver tonight.
This game will be the two teams’ third and final meeting of the season. Each of the first two were played in Denver, in which the Nuggets cruised to easy double-digit victories. Though they are clearly the superior team, the altitude gives Denver an especially strong home court advantage, so the Nuggets won’t have it quite so easy playing in New Orleans. That being said, they’re on a very impressive 15-game winning streak, likely being overlooked by many due to the current streak of the team coming to town on Friday. That winning streak has vaulted Denver to the league’s 4th best record, behind just Miami, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City. What do the Hornets have to do tonight to stop the Nuggets’ streak and continue their own?
Three Keys to the Game
- Prevent high-percentage looks. The Nuggets have attempted 82% of their shots this season from either within the paint or beyond the 3-point line. The Hornets, by comparison, have only attempted 73% of their shots from these two areas. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Denver has the fourth highest offensive rating in the NBA this season. Of course, when you have the kind of success scoring in the paint that the Nuggets do, shot selection becomes a whole lot easier. You cannot stop the Nuggets from scoring in that area; you can merely hope to contain them. Denver leads the league in both points in the paint (57.9 per game, an insane 12.1 points ahead of the #2 team) and second chance points (15.8 per game), and is second in the NBA in offensive rebounding rate (31.4%). Strong interior defense will be pivotal if the Hornets want to force the Nuggets out of their comfort zone and win this one.
- Slow down the pace of the game. The Nuggets play at the league’s second fastest pace, averaging almost 98 possessions per game. This pace, along with a top-10 ranking in opponents’ turnover rate (16.0%), has helped them to a league-leading 19.7 fast break points per game. If New Orleans allows Denver to dictate the tempo of the game, then the Hornets will struggle mightily to keep up.
- Know your opponent and play smart help defense. The Nuggets are one of the NBA’s best passing teams, able to easily create open looks with strong ball movement. There will be moments when Hornets players have to decide when to help off of their man and when to stay home, and the decisions made in these situations could go a long way in determining the outcome of the game. Chandler, Gallinari, and Lawson all shoot 37% or better from beyond the arc. Iguodala, Brewer, and Miller all shoot 31% or worse. Respect the outside shooting of players who merit respect, and don’t over-extend towards those who don’t.
7 PM tip-off in the hive; see you there! I’ll be the guy dressed in Hornets colors rooting for a one-point Hornets loss.
UPDATE (11 AM): Greivis Vasquez tweaked his ankle in practice over the weekend and will not play tonight. Brian Roberts will start in his place.