Blazers/Hornets Pre-Thoughts

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The Blazers take their show on the road for a 5-day, 3-game, Southwest Swing of sorts. It begins tonight when Portland will take on the Hornets in New Orleans. Over the next three days the Red & Black Attack will look to continue their progress against Western Conference playoff contenders. Only now they’ll be looking to do it on the road. First off, of course are the Hornets. This will actually be the fourth and final meeting between these two teams this year. New Orleans is winning the season series 2-1. If you’ve missed the three previous games….Game 1 was an ugly loss in New Orleans, Game 2 was episode 21 of the Brandon Roy Show and Game 3 was when B-Roy was out of the lineup, we sputtered and Joel Pryzbilla almost demolished Tyson Chandler. Sadly no Tyson in tonight’s lineup but I guarantee there will be an awkward glare.

If you’re one of those fans who is into the ‘playoff picture’ this contest has a little bit of significance to it. Believe it or not the Blazers and Hornets are tied (28-18) for the #4 spot in the Western Conference. I’m knocking on wood harder than Beatrix Kiddo punched her way out of that casket right now(Kill Bill reference #100) but if we’re fortunate enough to stay as high as we are…seeding becomes very important. Don’t want to drop this tiebreaker.

Not going to spend a lot of time talking about New Orleans. By now you know what they bring to the table. Good defensive team, very physical, generally won’t beat themselves. Chris Paul = assassin. Chris Paul = double assassin after watching what Deron Williams just did to Portland. David West can score in bunches and give the Blazers headaches. The role players are solid and can hit jumpers. However I will say this. The Hornets come into this game…struggling. Perhaps a little vulnerable. Of course by struggling I mean for the Hornets. They have lost 2 in a row and 3 of their last 5. Those include puzzling losses in Minnesota and at home to Golden State. Word on the street is they are missing Tyson Chandler. I can’t believe Sean Marks is getting big minutes. Without Chandler in the lineup, we should maybe, hopefully see something from Greg Oden. Just a thought here.

Keys to success:

  • Be physical. We’re very much still a Team in Progress when it comes to this facet of the game…let’s continue to make progress. This has been our achilles heel all year as some games we do it (Boston, Utah) and other games we don’t (Cleveland, countless other games). On the road, in New Orleans we’re going to have to win a physical game. I think that goes without saying. We’re also going to have to win physical games in the springtime if you catch my drift.
  • Bring the Defense back. Our defense has been leaky for a little bit here and we haven’t really paid a huge price. Mainly because we haven’t played against teams that posed much of a threat. That changes tonight. I’d love to see Portland keep NO in the 80’s for one of those grind-it-out type wins. Why not? NO is 1-10 when they score in the 80’s.
  • Attack the basket. Don’t settle for jumpshots tonight. If they are open…fine. But we can throw it inside and we can attack the basket. Hilton Armstrong is no Tyson Chandler when it comes to the changing shots department. We should be able to get to the line on these guys.
  • Contain David West and the role players. I fully expect Chris Paul to go to work and that’s fine with me. If we keep David West in check we make our lives a whole lot easier. LaMarcus has got to win this battle tonight, I’m hoping to see that chip re-appear on his shoulder. Actually I’m mainly hoping he doesn’t do his uber-uncool Casper the Friendly Ghost impression and ya know….disappear. Can’t let Peja get going early, ditto for Rasual Butler. New Orleans can out-score you in a second if you let them.

Both teams need this win. New Orleans is looking to break their losing streak while the Blazers need to kick off this mini road trip with a win. We’ll see what happens tonight.