Game On: Spurs @ Hornets

Published: January 7, 2013

The Hornets return home for the first of three games in the New Orleans Arena this week for a match-up against the Southwest Division leading Spurs.

Fresh off of a three point overtime win in Dallas, the Hornets have no time to enjoy their hard-fought victory with the Spurs coming to town. San Antonio has once again established themselves among the best of the Western Conference, right along with the Thunder and Clippers. The two teams’ only other meeting in New Orleans came on opening night back on Halloween, when the Spurs barely edged the Hornets 99-95. That game was played without two all-star shooting guards who will both be active tonight – Manu Ginobili and Eric Gordon. The Hornets are fortunate to be playing this game at home, as the Spurs have the best home record in the NBA (14-2) but have been beatable on the road (13-7). To do that, though, New Orleans will have to play one of their best games of the season. The Spurs are so good that the Hornets could play well in almost every phase of the game, but still fall because their team on-court chemistry is just nowhere near San Antonio’s level. Nonetheless, here is how the Hornets can put themselves in the best position to win.

3 Keys to the Game

  1. Pressure the ball around the perimeter. The Spurs are arguably the best passing team in the NBA, as they boast the league’s highest assist rate.  Per’s media stats tool, the Spurs are 3rd in the NBA in 3-point percentage at 38.3%, and 91.2% of those 3-pointers are assisted, which is best in the NBA. The Spurs do a great job of moving the ball around without using a ton of dribbles to do it. The best way to interrupt their excellent perimeter passing and scoring is to make the man with the ball work as hard as possible to get that pass off. If the Hornets take the “give up 3s to prevent easy 2s” approach, they could be in for a long night.
  2. Own the defensive glass. The Spurs are the third worst offensive rebounding team in the NBA (ORR of 21.5%), so the Hornets need to make sure they capitalize on one of San Antonio’s only weak offensive areas. If you give a team as talented as the Spurs second chances to score, they will make you pay. If there’s any opponent that Robin Lopez needs to bring his absolute best effort on the defensive glass, it’s this one. Don’t be surprised to see Monty yank him quickly if he’s not working hard for rebounds.
  3. Take advantage of open mid-range looks. The Spurs have the NBA’s second best 3-point defense, allowing opponents to make just 32.7% of their attempts from long range. A player of  Ryan Anderson’s caliber will still get his shots off, but apart from that, it may be tough finding easy looks from beyond the arc. Unfortunately, the Spurs also allow the league’s 4th lowest free throw rate; they’re one of 5 teams to allow less than one free throw attempt for every four field goal attempts. The Spurs’ weakest area defensively is the area in which you’d want to be weak if you had the choice – defending the mid-range jumper. The Spurs allow the league’s 4th highest field goal percentage from 15-19 feet at 43.7%. The point here is not to simply settle for mid-range jumpers, but if they’re open, the Hornets cannot be afraid to take them. As a result, players like Jason Smith could see extended minutes tonight, as his height and shot-making ability could give San Antonio trouble.

Behind Coach Greg Popovich, the Spurs are a well-oiled machine, but a machine that can be dismantled if shots are falling. With  Eric Gordon back, hopefully he can help to create some additional open looks for his Hornets teammates. Enjoy the game!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.