Bradley Handwerger / WWLTV.com
NEW ORLEANS ― If Hornets coach Monty Williams had his way, his team would play in a TV-less, newspaper-less, internet-less world.
After all, according to the first-year head coach, the only way his players apparently learn about whom they’re playing and where they stand in the playoffs is through the media.
Because he says he’s not the one continually bringing up that New Orleans is close to the playoffs and, in fact, could pick up a postseason invitation with a win tonight at 7 p.m. against Houston.
“We haven’t talked about it,” Williams said this morning after shoot around. “We’ve approached this game the same way. The only way they’ve heard about is on TV and you guys. We just don’t talk about it.”
Added center Emeka Okafor, “We haven’t really talked about clinching the playoffs, but just going out there and getting a win. Coming down the stretch, these games are important not only for making it, but for seeding. Before you even get to that, you have to win.”
And yet, the players undeniably know what’s on the line tonight against the Rockets.
Win and they’re in.
“Guys know what’s at stake,” Williams said. “They’ve known it for the past 25 games. For us, trying to keep everything as normal as possible is protocol for us. That’s what we’ve tried to do all year.”
The Hornets (44-33) sit a half-game back of Portland (45-33), which lost to Golden State on Tuesday. New Orleans is a half-game ahead of Memphis (44-34), which lost to the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday.
And the Hornets are three and a half games up on Houston, which lost to Sacramento on Tuesday, giving the Hornets a magic number of one.
Not that New Orleans is looking past Houston.
The last time the two teams played, the Hornets blew a double-digit lead at home and allowed the Rockets to pass them in the second half.
It’s a game Williams remembers well.
“We did not defend in that second half for sure,” Williams said. “And we’ve got to stay in character. Last time we played this team we had guards posting up, throwing behind the back passes and couldn’t finish one-on-one fast breaks. We just kind of played the game like we won it in the first half. That was embarrassing.”