Defensive Hornets developing into Western powerhouse

The young New Orleans Hornets seem to have learned their lesson. The team, which hadn’t made the playoffs since the 2003-2004 season, is finally buying into the age old mantra that defense wins championships.

"Our training camp was all about improving our defense," said team leader and all-world point guard Chris Paul, following a 93-88 win over the generally high-scoring Denver Nuggets. "Our defense was a reason we didn't make the playoffs the last two years. We could always score with the best teams in the league. We just couldn't make defensive stops."
The Hornets have certainly had the individual defensive talent, in players like Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler, but Coach Byron Scott, who incidentally was known more for his shot than his D on the fast-breaking Lakers teams of the 80s, is finally starting to implement both a team-wide defensive mentality and effective defensive schemes.

As a result of their work on the defensive side of the ball and all-out hustle on both ends, the Hornets are the surprise team of the new NBA season. A team that finished with 38 and 39 wins respectively over the past 2 seasons is 3-0, and is only giving up 90.3 points per contest, putting them on par with traditional defensive power-houses like Detroit, Houston and San Antonio, at least early in the season. Compare that to last season, when the Hornets gave up 97.1 points per contest and it seems that Scott has found the Cajun recipe for defensive success.

Of course, injuries, for a team that lost starters David West, Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic for major chunks of last season, will also bear watching. But, if they can stay healthy, and continue to play defense like they have the first 3 games on the season, the New Orleans Hornets will find themselves back in the Western Conference playoffs, likely knocking out a team like the Golden State Warriors.

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