Prior to the All-Star break, the New Orleans Hornets sat atop the NBAâ€™s Southwest Division. Since that time theyâ€™ve dropped down to second and the refurbished Spurs and Mavericks are both on rolls.
The Hornets are 5- 5 over their last ten and have lost three straight. In that same time, San Antonio has gone 9- 1, winning six in a row, while Dallas is 6- 4, having won three straight. Oh, and Houston, despite Yao Mingâ€™s misfortune, are on a 13 game winning streak! That means that the only team that does not presently have a shot at the playoffs is Memphis. In no other division are so many teams so close together with first-place being separated from fourth by a mere two games.
Will New Orleans blow it? Will they find themselves down and out by the end of this long NBA season that still has 25 games left to go? If the Hornets can play .500-ball down the stretch, then they are in. They should be able to do that. But thereâ€™s no guarantee here.
The good news is that as I write this New Orleans is giving Phoenix an 99- 77 spanking going into the fourth quarter. The Sunsâ€™ Steve Nash has gone scoreless from the floor and put in three from the foul line. The Hornets are doing what they have done best all season, getting points from everyone on the floor.
The fact is that the Hornets have precious little bench and the five starters must all be healthy and contribute. Hereâ€™s how those five guys have done so far this season.
Chris Paul leads the team with an average of 20.7 PPG. The point man has 10.7 APG and 2.66 SPG. Shooting guard Morris Peterson is putting in 8.6 PPG, while back-up shooter Bonny Jackson is contributing 7.1.
In the frontcourt, power forward David West is taking down 9.1 RPG and averaging 19.6 PPG. Center Tyson Chandler is pulling in 12.3 RPG and knocking down 11.7 PPG. Finally, small forward Peja Stojakovic has hit for 15.9 PPG and grabbed 4.0 RPG.
Prior to tonightâ€™s game, the Hornets were hammered by Houston, losing 80 to 100, beaten by San Antonio 74- 89 and tripped up by the Wizards 92- 95. In all of those games at least one to three of the clubâ€™s starters were marginalized. For this team to win against top clubs, every one of those five starters must be functioning at a very high level.
Thatâ€™s certainly been the case against the Suns this evening. In the playoffs, it will be tough for New Orleans to survive round one.