Hornets vs. Thunder: Perimeter Defense Key to New Orleans Victory

Ryan ClutterContributor IIIFebruary 27, 2013

Defense on the perimeter has to improve for New Orleans.
Defense on the perimeter has to improve for New Orleans.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Despite a 20-38 record, the New Orleans Hornets have a talented roster. They’ve been unable to put it all together and have dealt with injuries the majority of the season.

Eric Gordon has played in just 22 games this year, and in the games when he's playing, he’s averaging 16.6 points. First overall pick Anthony Davis has also missed some time this season. Both will miss this matchup.

Losing four of their last five, the Hornets head to Oklahoma City to take on the 41-15 Thunder. The Thunder have beaten New Orleans seven straight times.

Recently, the Hornets have struggled defensively. They’ve put up their share of points, scoring an average of 98.8 points per game over the last five, but have given up an average of 100.2 points to opponents in that span.

They have shooters and big men capable of rebounding, but the defense has been subpar. Opponents are getting too many open looks and have been draining their shots from beyond the arc.

In the Hornets' last game, a 101-97 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, they surrendered 12 threes on 20 attempts. When they beat the Sacramento Kings the game before, 110-95, the Kings still made 12 shots from beyond the arc.

Austin Rivers has had a poor rookie season. Averaging just over 23 minutes a game, Rivers is scoring just six points per game. What makes it worse is that he doesn’t play defense off the ball, which accounts for a lot of open looks when his man moves without the ball.

To keep themselves in the game, they have to limit the amount of perimeter shots Oklahoma City takes.

That means getting a hand up or playing tight defense to force off-balance and low-percentage shots from the Thunder stars.

In the head-to-head matchups this season, the Thunder have made 26-60 shots from the beyond the arc.

Kevin Martin has averaged 21 points in those games with a .476 field-goal percentage. He's averaging just under 15 points per game for the season.

Against Western Conference opponents, Oklahoma City has won 17 straight games at home. In their last 11 home games, they’re shooting 50.3 percent from the floor.

Ryan Anderson will see extended playing time. We all know he has a pretty shot and can knock down threes with the best of them, but his perimeter defense has to improve.

It will be a tough task against Oklahoma City. New Orleans hasn't played well defensively in their last five against weaker offenses than the Thunder, but if the Hornets can frustrate Kevin Durant and the Thunder on the perimeter, they have a good shot to steal this one on the road.