After David West’s backbreaker Monday night, the Hornets have a better record than the Thunder — 30-16, 28-16 — and it’s no mystery why. Defense. New Orleans plays some defense.
The Hornets rank No. 1 in the NBA in points allowed (90.9; the Thunder scored 89 Monday night and would have won had it gotten to 92). The Hornets rank No. 4 in the NBA in field-goal percentage (43.8; the Thunder shot 46.5 Monday night).
This Hornet roster doesn’t seem all that much better than the Hornets Year 2 in OKC, other than experience for Chris Paul and West. Emeka Okafor is a defensive presence inside, but Tyson Chandler was back then. But these Hornets also have Trevor Ariza, who is an excellent wing defender.
The biggest difference for the Hornets is their coach, Monty Williams, who is getting his squad to play big-time defense. Sort of like the Thunder a year ago, there is no great reason for New Orleans’ defensive excellence, other than want-to. Which is half the battle.
We all loved Byron Scott, but Williams, hired away from the Portland staff, has invigorated the Hornets. Play defense like this, and you’ll win ballgames. Play defense like this with CP3 and West available to run offense, and you’ll win a ton of ballgames.
That’s what the Thunder needs to realize. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, OKC always will score. But if the Thunder wants to be elite, it has to play big-time defense. So even though this Thunder roster seems a little more stacked than the Hornets’, New Orleans has the better record because the Hornets are selling out defensively.