New Orleans Hornets @ Houston Rockets
8:30 PM ET / 7:30 PM Central, November 3, 2010
Toyota Center in Houston, TX
The New Orleans Hornets (3-0) are off to a very impressive unbeaten start this season after beating three playoff teams from last season in the Bucks, Nuggets and Spurs. The Houston Rockets (0-3), on the other hand, are headed in the opposite direction with a winless beginning to the 2010/2011 campaign. With a win on Wednesday night, the Hornets can match the best start in franchise history.
First-year coach Monty Williams has his Hornets playing complete games and getting things done defensively. New Orleans is fifth in points allowed this season, only giving up a measly 92.0 points per game, which is a huge change from the 105.5 per game they gave up in the second half of last year. That's saying a lot for the high-powered offenses they have faced so far.
"To me, if people don't understand how important defense is, they should now," said Williams. "Our team defense is coming along, (but) we're not there yet. We're making improvements."
What seemed like a grueling opening stretch of games, especially after a 1-7 record in the preseason, has turned into a proving grounds for the new-look Hornets. Many are starting to see they are for real. This is the fourth time in five seasons that New Orleans has started off 3-0, and they're hoping Chris Paul (who missed 37 games last season) can stay healthy and keep them on track as their leader.
"I like it, but I'm not surprised (of the fast start)," said Paul. "We're professionals. Every night we step out there on the court we go out there with the mindset that we're going to win."
With their speedy point guard on the floor, it makes the rest of the team better both offensively and defensively. Paul is averaging 20 points, nine assists and six rebounds per game, but the entire team is truly contributing on offense.
It's the defense which is helping them make big waves, though, and a huge part of that is newcomer, and former Rocket, Trevor Ariza. His 2.7 steals per game are helping the Hornets keep down the points of opponents and build up the fast breaks for his own squad.
Houston is already in a lot of trouble by staying without a victory through three games and playing in the very tough Southwest Division of the Western Conference. While they are playing well in the first halves of their games, it's the second half that sees the Rockets fall apart.
Even with center Yao Ming finally back in and healthy, Houston is 30th in points allowed this season, giving up 117.0 per game. Luckily for them, they are second in offensive scoring with 110.7 points per game.
Seems as if we have a good old fashioned offense vs. defense battle for Wednesday night.
Falling four games behind this early in the season is not only a problem as far as getting back into things, but it's an incredible shot to the morale of the team. All of the Rockets realize just how important a victory over the Hornets would be.
"We need this game," forward Luis Scola said. "We need it big time."
Shane Battier is a bit more calm and believes things will start going their way soon.
"No one's jumping off this boat yet," said Battier. "We'll correct the mistakes because we have good players, good coaches, and we just need to do things a little bit better...and it will turn."
If things continue down the same path for these two teams, then it's going to be a surprising and fun season for the Hornets, while the Rockets will constantly keep wondering what they're doing wrong.
It certainly is a bit of an oddity that a team that can score so well also gives up so many points. A good defense will almost always win over a good offense and tonight that little theory will be tested.
New Orleans Hornets - Chris Paul, Marco Belinelli, Trevor Ariza, David West, Emeka Okafor
Houston Rockets: Aaron Brooks, Kevin Martin, Shane Battier, Luis Scola, Yao Ming
Read more from Danny Cox at Examiner.com.