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Game 25 Preview: Hornets at Blazers

The Hornets?  Again?  Doesn't it seem like we've played them every third game?  I guess technically it's only been every eighth game statistically, but still.

A Look at the Hornets

The Hornets continue to battle injuries.  Their list of hobbled and incapacitated players is impressive.  Mo Peterson continues to battle back problems.  Peja Stojakovic sat out their last game with a re-strained groin.  Ryan Bowen has a sprained knee, Melvin Ely a fractured eye socket, and Julian Wright suffers from shoulder problems.  On the upside they still have Chris Paul, Tyson Chandler, and David West.  That means they can score and rebound with most anyone.

Our recently-vaunted zone defense is going to face a severe test tonight, as the Hornets are good perimeter shooters.  Far more real than the threat of them posting us into submission is the threat of them rebounding and running on us, perhaps rebounding a miss on their own end and putting it back in the process.  It will be interesting to see if we modify our scheme any or if we continue to pack it deep and dare teams to shoot over the top.  We'll also need to deal with picks well tonight if we're to survive.  Chris Paul is sneaky in the halfcourt or on the run and they will screen for him and their shooting wings both.  

Other than their decent rebounding the Hornets are not particularly scary defensively.  Putting pressure on their defenders will be a key, especially those shooters.  We need to see more penetration tonight than we did against Denver.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  It's not absolutely ironclad, but in general the Hornets prefer games in the 100's instead of the 80's and 90's.  There's nothing forcing us to up the tempo.  In fact we played a fairly brilliant clock game against the Nuggets last night.  As long as we don't surrender fast break buckets we should be in good shape.
  2.  Like I said, drive like you was Dale Jr.
  3.  Closing out on their corner shooters will be important.  I'm not terribly concerned about our middle-court defense right now but our sideline defense has been lacking at times.  They will take advantage if they can.  And they can.
  4.  If you take Tyson Chandler out of the game, either through fouls or simply by moving him around so much that he's not able to set up effectively, you have torn the backbone out of the Hornets' defensive and rebounding attack.  Chris Paul is more important, but Chris Paul can't really be taken out of his comfort zone.  Chandler can.
  5.  Who do they have who can stay with Travis?  Nobody, that's who.
  6.  If Lamarcus comes back this game the middle-range shot should be fairly wide open for him.  Of course he may be rusty, but still.  If not a small repeat by Frye should be enough to neutralize most of West's damage.
  7.  Keep New Orleans off the foul line!  Other than Chandler they're soft shooters.  There's no reason to foul them and give up easy points.
The Hornets need clear advantages in scoring from West and Paul plus a monster game from Chandler to stay with the Blazers we've been seeing lately.  As long as those Blazers show up I like our chances to be competitive.  With all of that energy plus a little smarts you might even like our chances to get the home win.

--Dave (