Game Time 5:00 Pacific TV: KGW
This is going to be quick because I was fulfilling other duties until now (2:00 a.m. local) and have more tomorrow before the game.
First off, from what I saw of the game against the Thunder it was a much better loss even if being tough. At least Portland lost honestly with Durant gunning down the stretch and a chance at a game-winner from Rudy. (Oh how I wish that would have gone in. It would have brought Fernandez full-circle in his popularity quest.) Although the Thunder still got too many offensive rebounds the Blazers didn't lose down the stretch from a ridiculous lack of blocking out.
On to the Hornets...
Monty Williams has got New Orleans playing great basketball in the early season. They've finally capitalized on their defensive potential, ranking second in the league in field goal percentage allowed and first in points allowed. They're also best in the league at defending the three-point shot. Their defensive range and commitment will be a challenge to the Blazers. They're not going to let Portland get away with jumpers, especially since Williams knows all too well that the Blazers don't have a credible inside threat. They're also a great defensive rebounding team so Portland will have trouble scoring on the put-back. That means the only viable alternatives are running to shoot before the defense sets up and the cut-pass routine in the halfcourt. The first might be viable because the Hornets never rebound the ball on their offensive end. Defensive rebounds should come easy for the Blazers and they could leak out in response. The second...we'll have to see how seriously the Hornets are about moving their feet. If you go against guys like Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor one-on-one, though, you're probably in for a long night.
On the other end of the floor the Hornets don't shoot a ton of shots but they maximize their opportunities. They're efficient and have multiple scoring points. At least some of their success can be attributed to guys like Marco Belinelli, Willy Green, and Marcus Thornton, who have improved playing off of the main threats. With just about everybody on the roster looking comfortable in the offense defenders haven't been able to key on Chris Paul and David West. Though neither is putting up huge numbers each shoots near 52%, more important in this new style of ball. Even Emeka Okafor, hardly the second coming of Patrick Ewing, is shooting 73% on his predictable low-post moves. Unlike the Peja Stojakovic/Mo Pete/James Posey teams, nobody seems to care who gets the ball or who's going to score over whom. They run about 23 assists on 37 made shots per game. They also have some fantastic three-point shooters. You can't just pick an area and guard it. You have to cover the whole floor and all five guys.
Though everything has been clicking for New Orleans so far, they're vulnerable if you can hit your shots and score on them. They're not generating points and if forced to pour in 110 to win they'll be sorely tested. At the point it becomes Paul and West versus the world this experiment could fall apart...let alone Ariza against the world. No opponent has scored 100 on the Hornets this year. The Blazers need to be the first. They will also need to rebound well and take care of the ball. Obviously fatigue and emotional health are issues also with Portland having given everything last night, put up some stellar performances, and ended up just a hair short. The Blazers will need to start well and keep up their energy throughout. Guys like Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum, and Andre Miller could be key in this game, both applying pressure and producing points.
Hear the New Orleans perspective on this game at At The Hive.