Saturday, November 13, 2010

Fact: The Hornets can't lose.

Posted By on Sat, Nov 13, 2010 at 9:37 PM

Coach Monty Williams gives instructions to Chris Paul in this stock photo

OK, that headline isn't exactly a "fact," per se. The Hornets are surely capable of losing a game this season (though it's hard not to hop on the 82-0 bandwagon...real or not) but they sure haven't given teams much to work with thus far.

As it stands, the Hornets' 107-87 victory gives them eight straight wins to start the season, with six of those victories coming against playoff teams from last season. New Orleans leads in the league in defense (no team has scored 100 against the Bees) and are getting quality playing time from top to bottom on the roster.

"Everybody contributed tonight," center Emeka Okafor said. "The starters did great. The bench did great. The coaching staff did a great job of preparing us. It was an all around great effort."

Okafor's use of the word "great" is far from superfluous. This game provides just a dream state line for Hornets fans. Chris Paul recorded his third double-double on the season (11 points, 13 assists), Okafor added his own (14 points, 12 rebounds), seven Hornets scored in double digits and New Orleans never trailed on their way to a 20-point victory.

But as is the M.O. for the Hornets players and staff this season, coach Monty Williams began his post-game press conference talking about how his team shouldn't have let up 31 points third quarter and he later said that "we haven't played 10 games yet, we still have a long ways to go and we need to start making adjustments." Thus far this season, Williams has made all the right adjustments. Praised constantly by players for his IQ, it's become clear that Williams and his staff are largely responsible for the success of this team.

(Interesting stat of the night: Monty Williams is tied for third All-Time among NBA head coaches in consecutive wins to start a career. However, he is the only first-year head coach to begin a season 8-0 with no prior professional head coaching experience — the coaches leading Williams began their careers mid-season.)

Of course, if it were not for Chris Paul, it's hardly a guarantee the Hornets would be as good as they are now. The Hornets' All-Star guard has led his team to victory without having to carry them as well. To wit: his 11 points was the least among all starters tonight and he was only 2-of-6 from the floor. Or to think of it another way: if CP3 put up the numbers he did tonight last season, do you think the Hornets would've won by 20 points? Yea, I don't think so either.

The Hornets are playing complete basketball right now. Yes, there are occasional lapses, but they don't last long and the Hornets' defense is clamping down when in the past they may have folded. The perfect example: in both the third and fourth quarters, the Hornets had double-digit leads that the Trailblazers cut down to less than nine points. In the third, New Orleans responded to the Blazers run with one of their own that put them back up by 14. In the fourth, the Hornets finished the game on a 22-12 run.

Yes, the Hornets have weaknesses — the three-point shooting is streaky at times, they still haven't been truly tested in the front court and there are times when it's apparent the team hasn't fully grasped Williams' system — but who wouldn't take a slightly-flawed undefeated team to anything this market has seen in the past?

Really, all things considered, if you haven't gotten excited about the Hornets, it's about damn time.

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