Scouting the Hornets: Fourth time’s a charm?

By Quixem Ramirez

Offensive rating: Spurs – 106.5 (2nd), Hornets – 97.4 (27th)Defensive rating: Spurs – 101.4 (13th), Hornets – 102.6 (18th)Pace: Spurs – 94.5 (8th), Hornets – 90.7 (30th)Time: 7:30 p.mTV: FSNSWRadio: WOAI-AM 1200, KCOR-AM 1350

April 4, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Hornets shooting guard Eric Gordon (10) shoots against the Denver Nuggets during the second quarter of a game at the New Orleans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Eric Gordon. Gordon made his third start of the season on Wednesday in their 94-92 victory over the Denver Nuggets. Given the relative shallow pool of quality shooting guards — compared to the astronomical amount of quality point guards — the 23-year-old Gordon can already be considering one of the best 2 guards in the league. The Spurs shouldn’t worry about Gordon picking apart our defense with his keen court awareness but rather we should worry about his ability to get into the teeth of the defense and draw fouls. Going back to last year, which is a much more reliable sample size, Gordon had a better free throw rate than Kobe Bryant, a notorious 2 guard that gets to the line often. Gordon couples that with an elite finishing ability as his above-average 66.7 percent at the rim suggests. With Gordon in the lineup, the Hornets are 2-1. Without Gordon, they are 12-39. His addition gives them another player who can create for himself, other than Jarrett Jack who might miss tonight’s game.

3-point shooting. The Hornets’ second-ranked 3-point defense, teams are shooting them at a 31.4 percent clip, could be a problem for the Spurs. But, if the Spurs can move the ball around the floor well then there are areas that they could exploit in the Hornets’ defense. For instance, New Orleans doesn’t necessarily dissuade you from moving the ball; they are about average in opponent’s assist rate. Plus, given their tendency to allow 3-pointers instead of the long 2-pointer, the Spurs will have their fare share of attempts from behind the arc. The volume of attempts we take aren’t an issue; it’s a matter of converting the attempts. The Spurs have shot 13-of-54 from behind the arc against the Hornets in three games, a measly 24.1 percent.

Can the Hornets get a win? Although the Hornets are an inferior team, they have made the series pretty tough for the Spurs. Sans a Tim Duncan game-winner, this series might’ve turned out differently for the Hornets. Yet it’s been pretty apparent that they cannot simply hang with the Spurs. They’ve been beaten on the offensive boards, at the line and in the turnover battle in every game to date. Tonight’s game shouldn’t be easy per se but it shouldn’t be one that will end our winning streak. But, hey, anything can happen.

Final verdict. Spurs by eight. The Hornets’ addition of Eric Gordon should help. But if the Spurs have any success from the perimeter, the Hornets will struggle all night to stay in the game.