The Hornets are missing two of their best defensive players, but coach Monty Williams says that doesn't excuse the recent dropoff in their defensive performance.
The Hornets are second in the NBA in scoring defense (92.0 points per game), but they have allowed more than 100 points in six of their last seven games. They've allowed an average of 101 points during that seven-game stretch, which includes five losses. Before that they had allowed an average of 85 points during a nine-game stretch, all victories.
"We've been giving up over a hundred points a game for the last four or five games," forward David West said. "We're not going to beat anybody doing that."
Center Emeka Okafor, who anchors the Hornets' defense around the basket, has missed the last four games because of a strained oblique muscle. Forward Trevor Ariza, the team's best man-to-man defender, has missed the last two games because of a sprained right ankle.
"It doesn't matter who's out there," Williams said. "You have to approach the game the same way. I don't care who you put out there, you can always defend."
Williams said he would have expected the remaining players to increase their defensive intensity with Okafor and Ariza sidelined, but that hasn't been the case.
"If you have two guys that give you an edge who are out, you have to do more," Williams said. "You have to bring another level. I thought we would bring a heightened sense of urgency. You can't take possessions off. It was more of the same breakdowns. Our attention to detail was deplorable. You can lose an offensive rhythm, but I don't believe you lose a defensive rhythm. Defense is a mindset you have to have every night."
The Hornets, 32-21 after losing five of six, play at the Nets on Wednesday.
"When we were winning and stuff like that, we were holding teams under 100," guard Chris Paul said. "So I think going into this game against Jersey, win or lose, we need to hold them under 100 and be the team we know we are. We're a defensive team. We're not going to outscore teams and right now we're trying to outscore teams."
TIMBERWOLVES 104, HORNETS 92: The Hornets allowed the Timberwolves to make seven 3-pointers during a 37-point second quarter that put Minnesota in command. The Timberwolves outscored the Hornets 37-23 in the quarter to take a 14-point halftime lead. They never relinquished the lead. "A 37-point quarter is embarrassing," Williams said. "If you look at it, we won the game except for the second quarter." The Timberwolves finished 11-of-26 on 3-pointers.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.