If a week ago, anyone had said that the the New Orleans Hornets would be undefeated after two games, with one win coming on the final buzzer on the road and another coming in the form of a dominant performance against the Boston Celtics in front of a sold-out home crowd, it would be hard to take them seriously.
And yet here we are. The Hornets are a surprising 2-0 for the second year in a row under head coach Monty Williams and once again a team everyone thought was going to be bad to just-a-bit-better-than-bad shows that it can play ball. Normally, because the NBA season can be so long, you'd have to take the Hornets 97-78 win over the Celtics last night with a grain of salt. But with a lockout-shortened 66-game season, every game counts more than ever and the Hornets will take every win they can get.
Not that people should be planning any championship parades. The season-opening against Phoenix, though thrilling, came against one of the few teams picked to finish as bad or worse than the Hornets. Last night's win against Boston, though uplifting, came against a team that's opened their season with three road games in four days in New York, Miami and here, with the last two coming in the past 48 hours. At the very least, though, the Hornets have proven capable of taking advantage of teams not playing their best.
Williams has been quick to point out that the lockout ended only recently, and the reduced preseason has left teams shuffling their lineups and with players having to adapt quickly to NBA competition. Last night, the Hornets seemed liked they've been playing together non-stop for years on end, playing solid team defense and rarely missing assignments. Boston, meanwhile, managed to make just over 37 percent of their shots and looked more and more tired as the game wore on.
New Orleans had five players score in double figures last night, with Jarrett Jack leading the way with 21 points and 9 assists. Carl Landry has picked up were he left off last season after he replaced an injured (and now departed) David West and added 20 points and 11 rebounds. Most importantly, when Landry and Jack sat, the team didn't fall apart and after taking the lead in the first quarter, New Orleans never looked back. In the end, there was just no denying the fact that Williams had his players ready to play while Boston looked liked a disheveled version of its former self.
Of course, all of this could just be a mirage created by the shortened preseason, the rapid-fire regular season schedule and the lack of time to teams have had to scout each other since the lockout ended. After all, the Hornets barely even had a set roster as little as two weeks ago, not even Williams could tell how well his team would perform when the real games started (for his part, Williams downplayed expectations throughout the preseason, saying what a young team needed most was practice time that the Hornets didn't have. That lack of practice time and breaks to study film could well come back to haunt this team). It stands to reason that, eventually, other teams that have properly scouted the Hornets will bring them back to Earth.
For now, Hornets fans should bask in their team's second-straight surprising start to a season. And, even if this team does start to regress and ends up being as bad as everyone predicted, they have a solid base of young talent to build around and two draft picks next year to help the cause. All in all, it's fun time to be a Hornets fan.
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