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Game 2 Preview: Blazers vs. Hornets

A Look at the Hornets

The Hornets present an interesting set of problems.  They are a devastating perimeter team.  Chris Paul spearheads the attack.  He is a threat to score from almost anywhere (though if you have to choose you'd want him to shoot deep without passing).  The real problem he creates is his ability to drive and dish into the waiting hands of Peja Stojakovic and new acquisition Mo Peterson.  Simply put:  if you collapse with other small, quick players on Paul you're dead.  It's like the time I tried to play Halo 2 against some high school guys.  One of them had sniping position.  I barely knew how to use the controls.  "Hey how do you..."  PING!  You're dead.   "OK, well I appear to be getting up again, I'll just..."  PING!  You're dead.  "That's it.  When I find out who's doing that they're getting a grenade up their..."  PING!  You're dead.  Oh yeah.  They had a great time.

When they're not busy seeing how far out on the court they can shoot and still stay inbounds the Hornets get the ball to David West, who is a skill-based inside scorer.  He's got a 49% lifetime shooting percentage and knocked down 18 a game last year.  And then there's Tyson Chandler.  He's supposedly limited offensively but he still managed to shoot over 62% from the field last year.

Oh, and did I mention with Chris Paul healthy the Hornets can also run a little bit?

What's scary is the team actually doesn't do a bad job on defense either.  They were 10th in opponent scoring and 12th in opponent field goal percentage last year.  Playing Peterson, Paul, and Peja more minutes this year I don't expect them to be consistently good (or even average) but with Chandler in the middle they won't stink either.  They did hold the Kings to 90 points the other night for what it's worth.

New Orleans is also a fine rebounding team, again due to Chandler.  West is a fine offensive rebounder as well and their frontcourt will clean up a lot of backcourt misses if you let them.

Their bench sports a lot of athletes and also some skill.  Jannero Pargo has inspired high hopes.  Rasual Butler is a good utility guy and Bobby Jackson knows what he's doing out there.  Other than Chandler they're also a good free-throw shooting team.  To top it all off they don't turn the ball over much.

The Hornets can be had in a couple of ways.  The first is to get physical with them.  They're far more a finesse team than intimidators.  If you mess with their skill game and get in  their heads you have a chance to beat them.  This not only involves chucking them every chance you get on picks and such, but really dominating them rebounding and being very aggressive on drives.  Secondly even though they're fine running offensively they're not going to be as committed to getting back and constantly moving on defense.  A lot of their perimeter guys can be had.  If you stand still and launch shots or even try and score from the post all night they'll have you.  But if you move, cut, and run they'll lose interest.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  Our perimeter defense is going to be pushed to the limit tonight and will probably break.  That's a given and there's probably not much we can do about it.  They're going to hit a lot of shots.  The best we can do is first pray that they're having an off night and second REBOUND THE BALL.  If they're shooting a high percentage anyway and we let them get second shots we might as well invoke a mercy rule right now.
  2.  As we said above you have to make their defenders move their feet.  Guys like Peterson and Stojakovic just won't.  Guys like Chandler will eat you up if you let him set.  We can't intimidate them with physical strength or toughness but we can keep moving.  We're younger than they are.  We should use that to our advantage.
  3.  Driving is going to set everything up tonight.  One immediate goal would be to get their bigs in foul trouble and get into the bench.  Beyond that we need to set up our perimeter shooting with the drive, hoping they'll collapse and leave our men free.  Failing that there are always...I don't know...easy shots.  Either way you know those outside guys will let you by.  For Pete's sake take advantage of it!
  4.  We must defend the pick and roll.  1...2...3...everybody together now:  WE MUST DEFEND THE PICK AND ROLL!  However we attack it--switching, jumping the pick, fighting through, going under and around--we have to be decisive, strong, quick, and coordinated.  This team will pick you to death and if you mess up they're going to make you look stupid.
  5.  If you can't keep up in shooting percentage getting up volumes of shots can help compensate.  This can be tricky because if we're not committed to getting good shots and we try to run this team will oblige happily and waltz their way to 110 points.  But if we run both ways and combine work ethic with unselfishness we might be able to get a tempo advantage on this team.  I don't see us winning a slow-down game.
  6.  Reading all of this one and a half names are coming to mind:  Brandon Roy and Sergio Rodriguez.  Brandon and his drives are going to key our offense.  I hope Jason Quick was right in his chat when he said Roy was going to explode tonight.  I do not know if Sergio will see any playing time but this is the kind of team I can see him playing against.  If we're too slow in the tempo department maybe Nate inserts him to provide a shot in the arm.
This is a playoff-level team and it will be quite a test for us.  As always style of play and commitment are as important as results.   Here's to a good night with great effort!

--Dave (