Team Records: New Orleans (9-28) at Portland (18-19)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -10.5
Refs: Ed Malloy, John Goble, Eli Roe
The Skinny: After hopefully hitting rock bottom with the loss Saturday, the Blazers face a near must win before they head out on a 7-game road trip versus the west’s worst team, New Orleans. Take a look around at the court Blazer fans because by the time this team next plays a home game, the trading deadline will have passed and it seems likely that this will be the final home for at least a few players.
Last Time they Met: New Orleans played tough but pure effort cannot defeat better talent over the long haul as the Blazers held off a late New Orleans charge to prevail. Jamal Crawford poured in 31 points to pace the Blazers.
Projected Hornets Lineup:
PF: Gustavo Ayon (Mexico-Rookie) – 6.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.1 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: Marco Belinelli (pictured at right) – On a good team, Belinelli would probably be a specialist, coming off the bench when the team needed instant offense. However, with the combination of New Orleans being awful and injuries, he has found himself in a starting role much of this year and has shown himself to be, exactly the player we all thought he was. Simply put, Belinelli can make 3 pointers, and that’s pretty much it. He’s a decent ballhandler but he doesn’t attack the rim, plays horrible defense and doesn’t draw fouls. Still, he is at least an offensive weapon on a team that sorely lacks them.
Did You Know?: The Hornets, who pride themselves on defense, are strangely 0-3 this year when they score more than 100 points.
Song of the Day: “16 Tons” by Ernie Ford: An old folk song from the 1930s about coal miners slowly dying as they keep working harder and harder. This pretty much matches my mood about this team right now, always a fan but slowly becoming less and less able to generate enthusiasm that they will turn it around anytime soon:
Portland: Out – C Greg Oden (knee).
New Orleans: Out – SG Eric Gordon, C Emeka Okafor (knee), PF Car Landry (MCL), Questionable- PF Jason Smith (Concussion), SF Trevor Ariza (Illness).
Re-Evaluating New Orleans: Playing with Heart
Many bad teams just mail it in and simply collect their paychecks, too easily giving up when the going gets tough, such as Charlotte. New Orleans is not one of those teams. They rarely win but their point differential of only -5.3 shows that they usually fight hard. New Orleans may not have the talent to win games, which is why they are in full rebuilding mode, but you cannot accuse Monty William’s bunch of failing to give it their all. If only we could say the same about Portland on a nightly basis.
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.