COMMENTARY | After an unimaginably stressful 2012, New Orleans sports fans have a lot to cheer about early in 2013. The New Orleans Hornets are playing their best basketball of the season and currently ride a four-game winning streak.
Not surprisingly, the Hornets have improved tremendously since the return of Eric Gordon. But New Orleans still ranks 28th in points per game and Gordon has had several poor scoring efforts already. The greatest factor in the Hornets' four-game winning streak is a much-improved defense.
In New Orleans, fans aren't used to good defense. Even when the Saints won the Super Bowl, it was "in spite of," not "because of" our defense. Earlier this season, I remember the Hornets ranking 29th in points allowed per game. Now, they rank 12th in this category.
Monty Williams stresses defense, but his scheme is complex and the Hornets are one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the NBA. Plus, New Orleans was missing its best shot blocker (Anthony Davis) and its best perimeter defender (Gordon) early on.
One of the stats that plagued the Hornets while they were struggling was forced turnovers. But in their last three games, New Orleans' defense has forced 55 turnovers. In fact, the Hornets forced 22 turnovers on the San Antonio Spurs.
Defensive rebounding has also improved for the Hornets. During their four-game winning streak, New Orleans has averaged 32 defensive rebounds per game. The Hornets' board work was particularly impressive against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who are an outstanding offensive rebounding team.
The biggest improvement I've seen lately in the Hornets' defense is how they've defended the three-point shot. For a couple of weeks, NBA teams were so comfortable behind the arc that they looked like they were shooting free throws instead of three-pointers. I remember several games in which New Orleans' opponents shot over 50 percent on three-pointers.
However, over the last four games, the defense has only allowed 26 made three-pointers on 85 attempts. That works out to a .306 percentage, which is better than the Indiana Pacers' NBA-best .312. Needless to say, fans like me in New Orleans have a lot to be happy about right now.
Patrick Michael was born in New Orleans and currently resides in the Big Easy. A loyal New Orleans NBA fan, Patrick was a diehard New Orleans Jazz fan and now cheers for the Hornets. Patrick was in attendance the night the Hornets were one win away from the Western Conference Finals. Follow Patrick Michael on Twitter at patmichael84.
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