Trail Blazers vs New Orleans Hornets Preview

Tonight’s game may be one of the major factors on how the rest of the Western playoff seeding will stand come the postseason. Seeds 5-8 have the potential to change in a matter of days and who the Blazers face could rest on the outcome later tonight. On the final leg of their quick Western road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers (43-31) will look to increase their lead over the New Orleans Hornets (42-32) over the 6th spot with Portland up by a single game. With a victory tonight, the Blazers not only increase their lead over New Orleans, but they can tie the season series 2-2, as the Hornets have a 2-1 edge with Portland winning just before the All-Star break at the Rose Garden in February. This Hornets team who started red-hot out of the gate led by Chris Paul and new coach Monty Williams (former Blazers assistant coach), the Hornets have had a rollercoaster year, mainly by winning a lot of games, then losing a lot and so on. The Blazers won 103-96 from large part to balance scoring and the hot hands of LaMarcus Aldridge. New Orleans has been dealt a bad hand by losing their top scorer David West to a ACL injury and is out for the rest of the season.

The Hornets thrive on scoring as much as they can get. They settle mainly for jump shots and three pointers but rank pretty low in the league on how well they do it, only 22nd in points per game with just about 95. Anyone on the Hornets roster could have an offensive night, the likes of Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, Marco Belinelli, Emeka Okafor and Jarrett Jack. When you leave these guys alone, they can hurt you from pretty much everywhere. With West out, their newly acquired Carl Laundry from Sacramento has been stepping up his game, scoring around 20 points and 10+ rebounds his last couple of games. New Orleans is also stocked with three-point shooters, mainly Belinelli and Willie Green, again if left alone behind the line they can kill you. Chris Paul will be looking to score but setting his teammates up will be needed as well, he averages over 8 assists a game and is considered one of the best point guards of the game, heck he’s a four-time NBA All-Star.

A win or loss tonight could very well tell who will sit where in the Western Conference come playoff time

For Portland tonight to leave the Big Easy with a win, I would think balanced scoring from everyone will be keys tonight. LaMarcus Aldridge has looked gassed out (and should be) so it’s up to the rest of the Blazers to step up defensively and get to work. New Orleans do not allow a lot of points as they are 4th in the league only allowing 93.5 per game. Ariza and Okafor have given Aldridge a hard time in the past and will double team whenever he looks at grabbing the ball, so for someone like Gerald Wallace or Nic Batum for him to pass it back out to and drive it home or shoot the three will be needed. The Blazers will need to shut down on defensive and do a better job than they did in San Antonio, the last thing we need is Okafor ruling the paint. Defend the outside and rebounding the ball, especially the offensive cause it’s no good when the Hornets fast break and are led by Paul.

Prediction: Rebounding and getting good looks will be statistics to watch out for. Hopefully Aldridge has had some nice resting periods and can come out fresh, but production by everyone is big as it should be. I think Portland comes out slow in the beginning but take charge in moments that count. Portland wins 98-95.

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