Team Records: Portland (14-12) at New Orleans (4-22)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -7.5
Refs: Joe Crawford, Matt Boland, Kevin Scott
The Skinny: After two straight home losses, a trip to New Orleans may be just what the doctor ordered. Portland already won in New Orleans a few weeks back and the Hornets have moved seemingly backwards since then, defeating only Orlando in a game that saw perhaps the worst effort by a playoff team in recent memory. The Blazers are also riding a four game road losing streak and will look to end that as well.
Last Time They Met: In a game that matched the energy of the sparse crowd, the Blazers sleepwalked to a fairly easy win over the Hornets. The final margin was only seven but it was nowhere near that close, with Portland taking charge in the second half as Aldridge scored 22 to lead Portland.
Projected Hornets Lineup:
PF: Gustavo Ayon (Mexico-Rookie) – 4.7 PPG, 3.4 RPG, .7 APG
SF: Trevor Ariza (UCLA, 8th season) – 10.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.1 APG
C: Emeka Okafor (Connecticut, 8th season) – 9.7 PPG, 7.9 RPG, .9 APG
SG: Marco Belinelli (Italy, 5th season) – 9.6 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 1.1 APG
PG: Jarrett Jack (Georgia Tech, 7th season) – 15.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 6.7 APG
Player to Watch: Gustavo Ayon (pictured at right) – One of the more common things about the NBA’s truly awful teams is they have a tendency to find players few have heard of who put up numbers and at least give the fans something to look forward to. Gustavo Ayon is such a player. An undrafted free agent, Ayon was thrust into action when Chris Kaman was benched pending a possible trade. He has made the most of his opportunities, proving to have a decent scoring touch inside as well as decent rebounding skills. On defense, he is an effective shot blocker, averaging nearly a block per game. Ayon may not be a star, but he is someone who is at least reasonably competent, which on a team this bad is all you can ask for.
Did You Know?: New Orleans has not won a game this year when any of the following are true: they trail at halftime, allow 100 points or shoot a lower percentage than their opponents.
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee)
New Orleans: Out – SG Eric Gordon (knee), PF Car Landry (MCL), PF Jason Smith (concussion)
Re-Evaluating New Orleans: Poor Monty Williams
There really is nothing else one can say about New Orleans except how flat awful they are. It’s hard not to feel sorry for their head coach, ex-Blazer assistant Monty Williams, as he struggles with a motly crew of random players who are typically either untalented, inexperienced or don’t care (see Kaman, Chris on that last one in particular). The top scorer for New Orleans is ex-Blazer point guard Jarrett Jack, who is a fine point guard, but something tells me any Blazers fan will tell you that if Jack is leading your team in scoring, it’s not a good thing. Oh, and to add to the malaise, perhaps their two best players, Eric Gordon and Carl Landry, are out hurt. No one deserves this, but least of all someone like Monty Williams, who did a remarkably good job with this New Orleans team last year and is caught in the middle of a massive rebuilding effort.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They are focused. The Blazers looked lifeless during much of Wednesday’s loss. If they avoid that, they should win this easily.
New Orleans wins if: They hold Portland under 90 points. New Orleans is not a good offensive team, so they will need to hold Portland to another bad road shooting night to have a shot.