NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans Hornets have scored more than 100 points in four of their past six games, getting more than 110 points in three.
They have won three of the four 100-point games, including Monday’s 114-105 win over the Sacramento Kings at New Orleans Arena.
However, on Tuesday, as the Hornets (14-27) prepared for a game at San Antonio (33-11) on Wednesday night, beginning a stretch of nine road games in its next 11 games, coach Monty Williams was looking at things from a completely different view.
Williams, whose basketball philosophy is strongly rooted in defense, was pointing out what opponents scored in those games.
“We’ve given up over a hundred in a number of games, and that to me is not a good sign,” Williams said. “We are 1-16 when we give up 100 points. (The first win) happened Monday. I’m more concerned with defense. When we score 100, we give up a lot of points. For us, if we can score between 97 and 95 and hold teams to 90, that for me is about as happy as I get about the score, because that’s when we’re playing our own type of defense.”
With the Hornets at the halfway point of the season, their recent scoring outbursts appear to be the result of a young team, with all its parts now, forging its own offensive identity, at times perhaps getting carried away and forgetting that it is rooted in defense.
Williams said, if anything, he is not seeking a balance but wants his philosophy and the team’s talents to meld together.
“Those things have to be on the same page,” he said. “That’s what you do as coaches. You try to get the guys to buy in and see things the way you see them, do things the way you need them to be done while not taking away from their individual games.”
In the past two games, the Hornets lost 116-112 against Golden State, a game in which it had season highs in multiple offensive categories, but its defense obviously was lacking. They bounced back Monday night by returning to defense, at least at the start, holding Sacramento to 39 first-half points in taking a 25-point lead. The Kings came back strongly in the third quarter, making it interesting in a game the Hornets won 114-105.
“I just think our defense against Golden State, they broke us down a lot off the dribble. (Against Sacramento), our defense in the first half was good. Second half, you’re not going to hold a team to 39 points (again).
“We just have to continue to build and try our best not to give up those big quarters. They kill your defense and kill your esteem when you’re trying to be a defensive team.”
At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Hornets face in San Antonio a team that has won 14 of its past 17 games. Since losing 95-88 to the Hornets on Jan. 7 at New Orleans Arena, the Spurs have won six of seven, their only loss coming in overtime at Memphis, 101-98.
The Hornets snapped a six-game losing streak to the Spurs, having lost the first two in agonizingly close games.
The victory at the Arena was the first time the Hornets had guard Eric Gordon against the Spurs, however, and he showed what a difference he can make.
He scored 24 points and enhanced his reputation as the team’s closer late in games.
New Orleans led by 11 points early in the fourth quarter, but San Antonio scored eight consecutive. Then, less than 30 seconds after checking back into the game, Gordon had a 1 minute, 13-second span in which he sank three big, long jump shots. It restored order, giving the Hornets an 84-77 lead with 5:59 left in the game.
This opponent at this time is why point guard Greivis Vasquez said it’s time for a reality check, to return to being a team in which tough defense is its top priority.
If anything, the past two games have shown that concentrating on scoring does not breed consistency.
“We got weapons, we got guys who can score, but at the same time, we are a team that plays defense,” Vasquez said. “Our thing is to be a consistent team. San Antonio is a consistent team, Miami is.
“We want to win consistently and become a playoff team. If we get more stops, we will score more.”