Team Records: Portland (7-5) at New Orleans (3-9)
Game Info: 12 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -5.5
The Skinny: ”Goodnight, Blazers losing streak, how are ya? Don’t you know me? I’m your native son, I’m the team they call the Blazers of Portland Oregon, I’ll be gone five more games before I lose another one.” (Adapted from “City of New Orleans” by Steve Goodman, originally released in 1971). After three straight losses, each more discouraging than the last, this is exactly the song the Blazers look to be signing after they face a struggling New Orleans team in a MLK Day matinee. The Hornets have lost nine of their last 10 games, the lone win coming in Denver against the Nuggets.
Last season: The Hornets won the season series 3-1. It was New Orleans’ first series win over the Blazers since the 2005-06 season.
Projected Hornets Lineup:
PF: Chris Kaman (Central Michigan, 9th season) – 10.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.4 APG
SF: DaJuan Summers (Georgetown, 3rd season) – 6.5 PPG, 2 RPG, 1 APG
C: Emeka Okafor (Connecticut, 8th season) – 8.7 PPG, 8.1 RPG, .8 APG
SG: Marco Belinelli (Italy, 5th season) – 10.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.3 APG
PG: Jarrett Jack (Georgia Tech, 7th season) – 15 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 7.6 APG
Player to Watch: Chris Kaman (pictured at right) – To say Chris Kaman was unhappy when he was traded as part of the Chris Paul deal is to put it mildly. He certainly played like he didn’t much care the first week of the season but as of late, seems to be getting more assertive. Whether this is a good thing, however, is unclear as his 0-10 performance from the field against Minnesota showed. Kaman is a good midrange scorer, but most of his value is on defense. He is a good low-post defender and a reasonably strong shot blocker and rebounder. Kaman has to have a good day for the Hornets to have a shot.
Did You Know?: Backups Gustavo Ayon and Greivis Vasquez are each the third NBA player from Mexico and Venezuela respectively.
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee); Doubtful – C Marcus Camby (ankle)
New Orleans: Out – SG Eric Gordon (knee); Questionable – SF Trevor Ariza (groin), SG Xavier Henry (ankle)
New Orleans’s Game:
New Orleans entered full rebuilding mode with a vengeance when they traded Chris Paul just before the start of this season. After they jettison a few of the big contracts they acquired in the trade following the next few seasons (most notably Kaman’s contract), they will look to start over. For now, however, it is hard to know what to make of this team other than that they are not very good. Much like his former boss Nate McMillan did prior to this season, head coach Monty Williams relies on a slow-paced game and defense to win games. The problem is, they are neither efficient on offense nor that good on defense. The Hornets are best when they attack the basket and either draw fouls or kick it out for open threes on offense and force their opponents to shoot jumpers on defense. If the Hornets can hold a team to around 90 points they might have a chance to win. If they allow their opponent to score any more than that, however, and they stand little chance.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They are focused. The Blazers have fallen victim to some lazy stretches during this three game losing streak. If they can avoid those, they should easily overcome an inferior Hornets squad.
New Orleans wins if: They make at least 10 three-pointers. When the Hornets do well, they typically make a lot of three-pointers. With questionable inside scoring, the Hornets will have to be feeling it from deep to have a chance Monday.