Blazers/Hornets Pre-Thoughts


The first game of 2009 for Portland brings a familiar Western Conference opponent as the Blazers welcome the Hornets to the RG. This will be the third time these teams have faced off this season, having gone toe-to-toe twice in November. Both teams have split the season series with the home team winning on each occasion. Game 1 in New Orleans was u-g-l-y with the Hornets finding ways to make plays down the stretch and take a hard-fought wiy. Game 2 in Portland was Episode 19 of the Brandon Roy Show.

Speaking of Mr. Roy, he’s listed himself as questionable but I assume him to be out once again. No complaints as again I don’t think there are too many people who would trade him sitting out in January over him missing key games down the stretch of the season. So without B-Roy in the lineup, the maturing of this team will continue. Against Boston some players really grew a lot. They stepped up to the plate big time. Now they have to do it again against a great team who is just as physical and tough as the C’s. The spotlight is really going to shine on LaMarcus, Greg, Travis and Rudy. Let the learning process continue.

Since the last time these teams faced off on November 28th, the Hornets have won 13 of their last 16 games. And those three losses were against stiff competition: at Boston, vs. the Lakers and that Christmas Day Massacre in Orlando. Needless to say that after a sluggish start in November, the Hornets are back in the saddle. Obviously words can’t describe the danger that Chris Paul puts into my heart going into tonight, but they are far from a one-trick pony. David West can always find a way to get the ball in the bucket. Tyson Chandler can change shots defensively but is also still dangerous in the pick and roll with CP3. Their role players are solid: Peja, Posey and Rasual Butler can all shoot. They are not unbeatable but like Boston you have to go and beat them. Because of their excellence on the defensive end and their ability to take care of the ball, they won’t beat themselves. They only allow 91.4 points a game which is good for 3rd in the NBA. They are the #1 team in the NBA at taking care of the ball.

Keys to success:

  • Continue the growing process. That Boston game was about 15 steps in the right direction. Now let’s not take 5 steps backwards. Continue to be aggressive, be physical and turn that game against Boston into our idenitiy. This can be a team who is talented but also scrappy, hard-nosed and fights for everything. Without Brandon Roy they have to do this to compete, nothing else really matters.
  • De-fense, clap-clap. Have to bring it on D. The Blazers have kept the Hornets in the 80’s in both contests, gaining a split. This is good. Why you ask? New Orleans is 1-8 when they score in the 80’s or less.
  • Box out. Portland has recently developed an issue giving up offensive rebounds. Statistically, N’Awlins is not a great offensive rebounding team but when you see Barea get 4 offensive rebounds against a team you tend to throw stats out of the window. As good as New Orleans defense is and as well as they take care of the ball, Portland cannot give up second shots. Can. Not.
  • Contain the role players. Yes, Chris Paul is a beast and a half but guess what…you can’t stop him. He’ll more than likely get his. Obviously West can’t get 30. I’m more concerned about Peja, Posey and Rasual Butler. The Hornets are 9-2 when Butler scores in double-figures. Peja is still lights out and Posey has a knack for hitting the big shots. We can’t let any of these guys get going.
  • Be aggressive. Attack the basket and go at these guys. Do not settle for jumpers and bad shots, New Orleans place great D but they can be scored on.

I was interested to see how the Blazers would play minus B-Roy. They shocked me big-time. We’ll see if they can keep it up tonight.