COMMENTARY | On Friday, November 23, the New Orleans Hornets allowed 111 points in an OT loss to the Phoenix Suns. This was the sixth consecutive game in which the Hornets allowed at least 100 points. Prior to this streak, New Orleans had never given up 100+ points in more than four straight games under Monty Williams.
Prior to their current six-game losing streak, the Hornets defense ranked seventh in points allowed. But six games later, New Orleans has plummeted to 24th in defense. Last season, the 21-45 Hornets only allowed 93.4 points per game, good enough for eighth in the NBA. So what's wrong with the defense this season?
Lately, New Orleans is giving up three-point baskets at an epic rate. In their last five games, the Hornets have allowed 67 made three pointers on 142 attempts. That works out to 47 percent shooting. For an NBA defense to allow 47 percent shooting on three pointers would be a bad night. But over five games, it's almost unheard of.
The problem seems to be that the Hornets guards aren't quick enough or tall enough to defend the three-point shot on passes after dribble penetration. It reminds me of short cornerbacks in football trying to play defense against tall wide receivers. But there's a reason why the guards are being asked to play both interior and perimeter defense.
What does Anthony Davis have to do with the Hornets perimeter defense? If Davis was in the lineup, he and whoever's playing center could patrol the lane on their own. Davis is a shot-blocking machine and I'm sure his presence on the floor would enable the New Orleans guards to stick to playing perimeter defense.
I realize that Anthony Davis played in the first two games in which this disturbing trend began for New Orleans. But what started as an anomaly is now the norm for the Hornets. As New Orleans continues to exercise caution with their gold medalist, don't look for Davis to get on the floor to fix the Hornets defense anytime soon.
The other major problem for the Hornets defense is that they can't force turnovers. In fact, the Indiana Pacers are the only NBA team forcing fewer turnovers per game than New Orleans. If the Hornets could force more than 12.4 turnovers per game, they would allow fewer three-point attempts.
When Anthony Davis returns for New Orleans, he will find an emerging NBA superstar and a dual-threat point guard on the floor with him. Ryan Anderson is playing like one of the most talented forwards in the NBA and Greivis Vasquez is setting career highs in scoring and assists on almost a nightly basis.
If the Hornets could just play average defense, they would win most of their games.
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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