In the last decade of basketball, there have been few forces more power than the San Antonio Spurs’ defense. That vaunted defense has regressed in recent years, but from 2000-2007 (and, for that matter, from 1997-2000), San Antonio never allowed more than 99.7 points per 100 possessions, a mark that routinely put the Spurs’ defense atop the league. Funny how that happens when the efforts of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich are combined. Pick and rolls were smothered, driving opponents were pushed into the help, and the glass was thoroughly cleaned.
It’s a recipe that, though lacking in the specific stylings of Duncan and Pop, may seem oddly familiar to fans of the New Orleans Hornets.
In his analysis of New Orleans’ defensive success in their hot start thus far, Ryan Schwan of Hornets 24-7 expertly identified a few defensive elements that run parallel between the 6-0 Hornets and the infamous Spurs. Stylistically, New Orleans is following the San Antonio model, by opting for a limiting, reactive defense rather than a completely smothering one. The Hornets aren’t jumping every passing lanes and swarming opponents with double teams; they’re playing smart, conservative defense and forcing opponents into specific types of contested shots. The Hornets have forced their opponents into low-percentage looks, limited second chance opportunities, and kept their fouls down for good measure. All with Monty Williams and Emeka Okafor standing in for two surefire Hall-of-Famers, and an inspired team effort by the Hornets filling in the gaps.
At this stage, Chris Paul is an easy pick for MVP, but it’s New Orleans’ Spursian defensive success that has pushed them to the top of the league. It probably makes Popovich blush. Y’know, if Pop blushes.