Game 15 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. New Orleans Hornets

Jan. 26, 2010 - Boise, Idaho, EEUU - PORTLAND, 25/01/2010.- Portland Trail Blazers basketball player Rudy Fernandez (C) tries to control the ball in presence of New Orleans Hornets

Blazers: 8-6

Hornets: 11-3

Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Brandon Roy (#7, 6′6″, Washington), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′8″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)

Projected New Orleans Starting Lineup: PG Chris Paul (#3, 6′, Wake Forest), SG Marco Belinelli (#8, 6′5″, Italy), SF Trevor Ariza (#1, 6′8″, UCLA), PF David West (#30, 6′9″, Xavier), C Emeka Okafor (#50, 6′10″, Connecticut)

After a five-day layoff following a blown game to Utah, the Blazers face the red-hot New Orleans Hornets tonight for the secont time this season. The first meeting between these teams is one most Blazers fans would like to forget–the team looked lethargic, and lost by 20 points. Not even two weeks later, both teams will look a little different from the previous matchup. The Hornets recently traded former Blazer Jerryd Bayless and the expiring contract of Peja Stojakovic to Toronto for a package centered around another former Blazers guard, Jarrett Jack. Jack, a close friend of both Chris Paul and new Hornets coach and former Blazers assistant Monty Williams, is exactly the kind of pure point guard the Hornets need to back up Paul. The good news for Portland comes in the form of Brandon Roy’s return to the court. Roy missed the last three games, and while Wesley Matthews filled in admirably (scoring 30 points against Memphis and putting up a 20-and-10 line against Denver), the Blazers have lacked someone who can finish games the way Roy is capable of, as evidenced by the team’s abysmal performance in the fourth quarter against the Jazz.

Additionally, Joel Przybilla is tentatively scheduled to return tonight after missing most of last season with a knee injury. This will not only give the Blazers a huge momentum boost in front of the home crowd, but the Vanilla Gorilla will provide some much-needed defensive help in the paint. The Portland defense had virtually no fight in the first game against the Hornets, especially on the interior. New Orleans players could get virtually any shot they wanted all game, whether it be Paul, Marco Belinelli, the not-usually-offensive-minded Emeka Okafor, or even Stojakovic. Matching up against a great rebounder like Okafor, the Blazer bigs will have to have intensity to match. LaMarcus Aldridge has rebounded in double figures the last two games, and should be expected to do the same tonight.

There’s no telling until tonight how effective Roy will be. Having him back in the lineup will help, but the Blazers will need Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum to continue their solid offensive play. New Orleans’ defense has been stellar this year, so Portland needs to take everything they can get. A performance from the foul line like the pathetic 11-for-22 showing against Denver last week will be simply unacceptable–the Hornets aren’t going to give up anything easy. It goes without saying that Andre Miller needs to be steady going against the best point guard on the planet.

Tonight’s game will be Portland’s last at home for a while, as they embark on a four-game east coast trip next week that will take them to New Jersey, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington. Three of those games should be highly winnable, but at least one win against an elite team before facing the Celtics would be a plus.

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