New Orleans Hornets Starting To Look Like Contenders

Joe GerrityCorrespondent IJanuary 7, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 02:  A members of the Honeybees Dance team performs during the game between the New Orleans Hornets and the Houston Rockets at the New Orleans Arena on January 2, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

In what can only be described as a topsy turvy year for the New Orleans Hornets, it appears they are finally making headway toward becoming an elite team. Hornets-Examiner~y2010m1d6-Bet-on-New-Orleans-Hornets-a-good-play-against-Thunder">As I predicted yesterday , the Hornets beat yet another playoff-bound team on the road.

In this short year, a few things have been clear and perhaps the most apparent is that the Hornets tend to play to the level of their opponent. They have already managed to lose to the Knicks and Raptors, twice each. These are not teams they will play again this year.

In the last five games against Western Conference playoff teams, the Hornets have won four, with the lone loss against the Rockets being avenged only a few days later.

Wins in Oklahoma City and Utah, where it had been years since their last win, show that this team is breaking out of its road slump.

These are the teams the Hornets need to beat in the playoffs and they have proven more than capable. 

There is really no reason why they should be struggling on the road to begin with, since they aren't young and haven't struggled in past years while traveling.

Expect to see the Hornets add a large number of road wins to their total in this coming month. Not to get ahead of myself, but it's completely possible that this team could win 12 of their 14 remaining games in January.

They are playing with a confidence we haven't seen in years and Chris Paul, despite struggling with his jumper, is closing games like a man possessed, both on offense and defense. It won't be too long before he is back in MVP consideration.

As Okafor continues to get more and more comfortable with West and Paul, he will see more and more time at the end of games, where he has proven to be a defensive ace, coming up with at least 10 clutch blocks in this short season.

He and Paul have to be considered the best defensive PG/center combination in the league.

As we all know, defense wins championships.

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