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Time to Ambush the Trailblazers

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Published: January 2, 2009

Matchup: Hornets(19-9) @ Portland(20-12)

Off Efficiency: Hornets 106.1(9th), Portland 110.8(1st)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 102.2(10th), Portland 105.7(20th)

Last year, the Portland Trailblazers ripped off a thirteen game win streak that made them the darlings of the league and propelled Brandon Roy into the All-star game.  Eventually they finished the season 41-41.  This year, the young blazers have stabilized, and Brandon Roy is even more unquestionably an All-star.  Over their last ten Portland is 5-5, but none of their losses are bad except for one to the Clippers which they still forced into overtime.

The Hornets are 7-3 in their past ten, including horrible blowout losses to the Lakers and Orlando.  Despite having almost the same team as last year, Byron’s been juggling the rotation seemingly most of the year with one player or another being out or being introduced afresh to the starting five, but finally it seems that everyone is back, the starting five is set in stone and they can finally start to build some consistency.

The primary thing to know about this game is that these two teams are pretty similar to one another in style.  They are the two slowest teams in the league, and both rely on lots of jumpshots and good play from their lead guards and power forwards for scoring punch.  Their wing players are primarly jumpshooting specialists, and their centers are primarly rebounders/defenders who put up efficient points from drives by their guards.

Portland is currently the most efficient scoring team in the league, but their defense is fairly weak.  The Hornets can’t afford to have any big scoring droughts, because Portland is unlikely to.

Below is my positional analysis – which has some strange results.

Injuries

Hornets: None
Portland: Brandon Roy is questionable, Przybilla and Oden have some nagging injuries.

Positional Analysis

PG: Chris Paul v Steve Blake
Advantage: Hornets
Like I say in every Trail Blazers preview, I like Steve Blake a lot.  The guy never tries to do more than he is capable of, almost never makes a mistake, sticks his open shots, and plays defense earnestly and intelligently.  He is by far having his best season of his career, hitting 43% of his three point shots and 45% of his shots overall, and is shooting better from the line too.  Paul will outplay him, but he’ll need to stay on him on the perimeter.

SG: Rasual Butler v Rudy Fernandez
Advantage: Hornets
There’s a lot of good to be said about Rudy Fernandez, the Trailblazers rookie from Spain.  Most of the season, he’s been a spark off the bench, but he’s been pushed into a starting role with Roy sidelined.  He shoots well from deep, and shows a lot of heart while on the floor.  That all said, he’s fairly overrated at the moment, mostly because he started off the season on a crazy tear that put him near the top in PER for about ten games.  For now, Butler has better shooting percentages, and his defense is very good, something I’m not yet willing to say about Rudy.  Oh, and I don’t like Rudy.  He gets all excited and mugs for the crowd every time he hits a three – even if its in the second quarter.  Act like you’ve been there before, Rudy.

SF: Peja Stojakovic v Nick Batum
Advantage: Hornets
After also starting off the season well and inspiring the Trailblazers fans to new heights of glory, Batum has pretty much fallen off the map.  He still gives earnest defense, but his 46% shooting with 43% from deep in November has turned into 29% shooting and 26% shooting from deep in December, where he managed just 2.2 points and 2.4 rebounds in 16 minutes per game.  Peja is just working himself back from an injury and hasn’t yet got his shooting stroke back, but he’ll gives us a bit more than that.

PF: David West v LaMarcus Aldridge
Advantage: Hornets
West and Aldridge remain very similar, with Aldridge holding the advantage in height and athleticism, and David West holding the advantage in power.  Both have sweet midrange jumpers, and both have several nice post moves.  I’m giving the edge, and it’s not much of one, to West, who outproduces him slightly.

C: Tyson Chandler v Greg Oden
Advantage: Even
I’d like to call this one for Tyson, but until he chains together some good games, I have no idea what we’re getting.  Oden has very nice numbers for his limited minutes, and this could easily go either way.

Bench
Advantage: Trailblazers
Okay, up above, there isn’t a position I’d call for the Trailblazers(with Roy out), so you’d think we’d win handily.  Not true, because Portland makes free and heavy use of their deep bench, and in many cases the player off the bench is better than the player in the starting line up.  This is particularly true at the Small Forward and Center spots, where Outlaw is a nice scoring forward off the bench, and Przybilla produces big rebounding and shooting numbers in small, irritating stints.  Sergio Rodriguez is a very good back up point who is great in transition and can run the pick and pop with Channing Frye or Aldridge pretty effectively.  We’ll probably see some of Jarryd Bayless tonight, who typically doesn’t play but may with Roy out.  I honestly can’t say I know what he’ll give them.  He’s fast, but hasn’t had enough time in NBA games to establish what he can do.  The Hornets have a good sixth man in Posey, and Daniels is a solid contributer.  I’m not sold on the rest of them.

Enjoy the game.

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