Somehow, some way, the New Orleans Hornets are playing their best basketball of the season.
Less than a month after finding new and bizarre ways to lose games, such as allowing the Lakers to go on a 20-0 run or giving up a 17-5 run to Orlando, New Orleans is playing like a team on a mission.
That’s a testament to the players and, yes, it’s a testament to the coaching staff and Monty Williams.
It would be human nature, especially after the troubles this team has gone through closing games and with the injury bug going through the team, for the players to have thrown in the towel.
A little more than two weeks ago, I questioned whether Williams was the right man, whether he had lost his team.
What we’ve seen here as of late shows that he has not lost his team.
What keyed the question was how he handled rookie Anthony Davis in the fourth quarter of a game that was getting out of hand.
In that Lakers game, Davis could have been put back in to help stunt Los Angeles’ comeback. He wasn’t and, therefore, he didn’t.
But in a similar situation against Boston, Williams put Davis in with nearly 2½ minutes to play after the Celtics had come back from a nine-point Hornets lead. Davis repaid the coach with a game-winning tip-in with 0.3 seconds to play.
Three games a season does not make and this stretch doesn’t fully cover the steps backwards the team has made at times.
It does, however, show that steps forward are possible, that the players are still willing to listen to Williams and play hard.
If it sounds like I’m backtracking from my position two weeks ago, that’s not completely true. What Williams has shown is that he has steadied the vessel at the very least.
The next step is consistency. That’s where the Hornets have struggled the most under Williams.
They’ve beaten playoff-bound teams in three straight games, outrebounding all of them. They had lost 7 of 9 before that.
They’ve been on stretches where they lost 11 in a row and stretches where they’ve won 7 of 9.
Williams’ task is to get this team to take that next step.