Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com
WESTWEGO, La. ― Hornets coach Monty Williams is the type of guy who looks for the positives, will point out the negatives when need be but in most cases, eyes the future instead of dissecting the past.
So when asked Tuesday about why there’s a consistency issue with just five games remaining, Williams balked, explaining that he doesn’t have “time trying to explain” the inconsistency.
“We’ve had the toughest schedule down the stretch of anybody in the league,” Williams said. “We’re trying to build on what we did last game. To worry about what happened two or three games ago would just be deflating.”
Indeed, Williams needs his charges focused on the task at hand Wednesday night. New Orleans (44-33) hosts Houston in a game where a win secures a postseason berth for the Hornets.
At least on Tuesday, they were focused.
“Spirited practice, physical practice today,” Williams said. “Just one of those days when we need to get working. At this point in the year if you get an hour and 40 minutes in, it’s pretty rare. I think the guys understand the importance of these days.”
If Memphis didn’t grab New Orleans’ attention last Friday night in a game where energy and focus was much-needed, Wednesday’s game against the Rockets (41-36) likely will.
Houston is 8-2 in its past 10 games and since the All-Star break, it has lost only five times. If not for starting the season 5-12, the Rockets would be firmly in the playoffs instead of outside looking in.
Despite losing Yao Ming for the season, despite trading Aaron Brooks and despite trying to acclimate new players into the rotation, Rockets coach Rick Adelman has his team playing with confidence.
Williams sees it on film as much as he has seen it in person. The last time these two teams went at it, Houston beat New Orleans in the Arena 91-89 behind Kevin Martin’s 33 points and a 41-37 rebound advantage.
While both are things Williams knows the Hornets are going to have to handle if they’re to pick up the win, containing Martin, who averages 23.4 points per game, will be the real key.
To do that, New Orleans will have to keep Martin off the line, where he makes 89.4 percent of his free throws. He’s third in the NBA in free-throw attempts at 635 and is seventh in the league in made percentage.
“Our team defense has to be good on him,” Williams said about Martin, who is averaging 25.6 against the Hornets this season. “He’s a guy who is looking to score. He gets the benefit of the doubt with the referees because he draws a lot of fouls and he really can shoot the ball. I’m not going to give away anything that we’re going to try to do tomorrow. But he’s an All-Star.”
Including Wednesday night, three of the Hornets’ remaining five games are in the Arena, where they are 26-12.