Game 27 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Hornets

Game Time: 5:00 Pacific TV: CSNNW

Update: The New Orleans Hornets sent a release on Friday saying that guard Jarrett Jack with not play in Friday night's game due to a re-aggravation of a bruised left knee. He is expected out "at least a week." -- Ben

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The New Orleans Hornets are bad. They're really bad. Have you ever walked in your house after being outside in the fresh air and gotten a whiff of some sickly-sweet smell wafting from the kitchen? Have you ever checked the garbage, the cupboards, the back of the fridge without being able to identify the source? Have you ever dug persistently, certain something was off, until finally in the back of the fruit and veggie drawer you found some unidentifiable bag of green, gooey, stuff from which this foul smell was emanating? Have you ever then opened that bag and chugged its contents? Then you, my friend, have no idea how bad the New Orleans Hornets are. They are the forgotten baggie of formerly-organic produce raising a stench from the bottom of the NBA's fruit drawer. And you get to eat them tonight.

Do you think I'm exaggerating? These guys are on a losing streak that's lasted the whole season. And it's not getting better. They have won 4 times in 26 games. Two of those wins came in their first two outings. That means they're 2-22 since. The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets did the honors, Orlando by scoring 67 points (still trying to figure out how they did that on a night when Dwight Howard scored 28) and the Nuggets by scoring 81. In fact the Hornets have not beaten a team that has scored more than 84 points on them. It's Lawler's Law modified: First to 85 wins. Unless it's the Hornets. Then the other team wins anyway.

To be fair the Hornets have been without scoring guard Eric Gordon for much of the season, but come on...is this guy Kobe? Is he LeBron? That's what you'd need to turn this team around. They score like a sports blogger at a Victoria's Secret show. For most teams 87 points is a disastrous night. That's their average. The only guys averaging good percentages from the field are the guys who don't shoot much. They don't have a single reliable three-point shooter among them. Even distance-wizard Marco Belinelli has lost his touch. They're horrible on the break. It's inside scoring or nothing for them. Pack the paint , secure the rebound, and profit. There's no "?????" line needed. It's just that easy.

On defense the story is slightly better. They can guard the paint. They allow a low three-point percentage. They rebound well defensively. Their big issues are getting back on defense and not helping out. They have ability defensively but lack confidence and cohesion. If you just go one-on-one against them all night they'll look good. Pass the ball a couple times and watch what happens. Plus remember that the bar is 85-88 points instead of the 100 you'd feel comfortable with against most defenses. No matter how well you defend in this league you're going to have a hard time holding opponents that low.

With Gordon out Jarrett Jack remains the leading scorer for the Hornets at 15 per game. Carl Landry and Trevor Ariza hover around 11 per. Everybody else--Emeka Okafor, Kaman, Belinelli, and a bunch of people you ain't never heard of--scores in single digits. You're not watching this game to see if your team wins. You're watching this game searching for spare parts to plug into the Trade Machine. At this point the Hornets are a league-owned salvage yard. Grab a distributor cap and a back-up center. Don't be stupid enough to get bit by the dog while browsing.

No matter who is sick, no matter how bummed people are about the last two games, no matter what coaching schemes are employed or how minutes are distributed, even if it is on the road, the Blazers should win this game. The goal in this situation is to play with enough energy early on that you can rest your starters in anticipation of the Dallas game tomorrow.

Inevitably in the comment section someone will mention that this type of game is a trap. If it is, go ahead! Spring it! What are you going to do, give the Blazers a mildly nasty rug burn? Put a slight noogie indentation in the old hairdo? Maybe it's true that any team can win on a given night, but this ought to be a night where the win isn't given. And being given it is the only way the Hornets are going to walk out of that arena with a "W".

At The Hive will no doubt compare the team to a slightly less moldy variety of vegetable.

Your Jersey Contest form for the evening.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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