NEW ORLEANS — When the NBA schedule came up with and released the 2012-13 Hornets schedule, the fourth week of March certainly looked tough.
But this tough?
Beginning tonight, New Orleans’ next three opponents – Denver, the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami – have won a combined 43 straight games and they’re a combined 152-58.
And it starts Denver, a team on a 15-game win streak that has taken a back seat to Miami’s 26-game roll.
“We’ve got to be very smart,” Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez said. “It’s a big-time opponent. We respect them. It’s not about breaking a streak. It’s about us getting better.”
The Hornets are, in fact, playing better. In the past two games, they’ve beaten Boston and Memphis, two playoff teams.
In those two games, New Orleans shot 45.6 percent while holding the Celtics and Grizzlies to 43.4 percent. Boston and Memphis made only 29.2 percent of their 3-pointers. And the Hornets averaged 3.5 more rebounds per game against both.
That’s what has impressed coach Monty Williams as much as anything. He’s impressed with the ability of his players’ to fight human nature and throw the towel in on the season.
“At this point in the season, you’re fighting it to (not) look ahead to the summer,” Williams said. “Our guys have done a really good job of coming in every single day and getting really good work in.”
Not that the Hornets have played crisp basketball of late.
They average just 14.3 turnovers per game but against Memphis, they produced 17 turnovers and against Boston it was 20. Against Boston, turnovers nearly cost them a nine-point fourth-quarter lead while against Memphis, giving the ball away nearly cost them a 16-point fourth-quarter lead.
“Points off turnovers (are important),” Williams said. “If you’re getting shot-clock-violations, that’s not good, but it does allow you to set your defense. When you turn it over, moving the ball from side to side, that’s usually when they’re off to the races.”
Still, these are the weeks high-level athletes like seeing on the schedule.
“If we play well or play great basketball, people are going to talk about us,” Vasquez said. “People are going to say, ‘Remember those guys!’ (We) might be down right now, but we’ll be in the back of people’s minds.”