Team Records: New Orleans (13-37) at Portland (23-27)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -8.5
Refs: Monty McCutchen, Brian Forte, Violet Palmer
The Skinny: After a loss to a far superior OKC team Tuesday, the Blazers conclude their 3-game homestand with a game vs. the West-Worst Hornets. The Hornets have been better as of late, winning last night and winners now of 3 of their last six. A win would secure Portland’s first four game sweep of New Orleans since the 2002-03 season.
Last Time they Met: The Blazers came out hot and never looked back. Portland was up by 10 after one and by as much as 26 before cruising home to a fairly easy win to take a 3-0 season series lead.
Projected Hornets Lineup:
PF: Jason Smith (Colorado State-4th Season) – 8.8PPG, 4.3 RPG, .6 APG
SF: Trevor Ariza (UCLA, 8th season) – 11.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.4 APG
C: Chris Kaman (Central Michigan, 9th season) – 12.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.9 APG
SG: Marco Belinelli (Italy, 5th season) – 11.2 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.2 APG
PG: Jarrett Jack (Georgia Tech, 7th season) – 14.8 PPG, 4 RPG, 6.2 APG
Player to Watch: Jason Smith (pictured at right) – Smith was widely regarded as a decent power forward, a backup on most teams, but certainly one whom was not at all physical. All that changed a week ago when Smith earned a suspension for his takedown of Blake Griffin (video here: youtu.be/DSlszw4WEgk). While it appears likely that this is just an isolated incident, it nonetheless shows Smith has some fight in him. Beyond this “takedown”, Smith is largely a player with a decent mid-range jumper on offense and good positioning on defense. However, he is not the fastest in the world and his lack of size means he is not a great rebounder for his position. In other words, he’s a backup, but on a team like New Orleans, they have little choice and have to start Smith.
Did You Know?: There is only one player left on the roster from when Monty Williams took over as coach before last season. That player, Emeka Okafor, hasn’t played since shortly before the all-star break due to injuries.
Song of the Day: “The Battle of New Orleans” by Johnny Horton: This song about the famous “Battle of New Orleans”‘ which took place two weeks after the war of 1812 ended is one of my personal favorites. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Shoulder), PF Shawne Williams (Foot), Questionable – PG Raymond Felton (Personal).
New Orleans: Out – SG Eric Gordon, C Emeka Okafor (knee), Questionable – SF Trevor Ariza (Ankle), C Chris Kaman (Illness), PF Gustavo Ayon (Personal)
Re-Evaluating New Orleans: The Injury Bug
In a certain sense it is not entirely a bad thing that New Orleans has had all the injuries this year. It helps their draft lottery chances a bit and it is certainly better to have injuries when you aren’t going to be any good than when you are. Still it has to be frustrating for Coach Monty Williams to have so many injuries that he has been forced to use 18 starting lineups and has not once this year started the lineup one would have figured would be his best heading into the season. Only 3 players have even played in every game for this team and no one has started every game. No matter how bad you are, losing 153 games and counting to injuries in this shortened season is something no coach or franchise should ever have to deal with.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They are focused. The Blazers have to ask themselves if they truly care about winning anymore or if they only want to play out the string and get to the offseason. If they care about winning and making a possible playoff push, or even just showcasing themselves for potential trades or free agency, they need to bring it tonight. If they do, they will win.
New Orleans wins if: They hold Portland under 90 points. New Orleans is not a good offensive team, they will need to hold Portland to a bad shooting night to have a shot.