Game On: Hornets @ Wizards

Published: January 1, 2011

After beating the Celtics yesterday and ending their seven game road losing streak, the Hornets look to make it two in a row at Washington tonight. The Wizards are also on the second part of a back-to-back after losing at Indiana yesterday 95-86 in a game where John Wall had 25, but nobody else on the team really showed up. The loss took the Wizards to 0-16 on the road this season.

At home however, the Wizards haven’t been at that bad going 8-7 at the Verizon Center. Most of their regulars have similar stats for both home and away with one exception- Nick Young. Young averages nearly 4 points more per game at home (17 PPG) and shoots 5% better from the field and 8% better from three. The numbers say that Nick Young likes those home rims, so don’t sleep on the guy Marco!

The Wizards rank near the bottom of the league in nearly every statistical category, with the lone exception of steals per game, where they average nearly 9 per contest. That being said, this is still a dangerous team that can push the ball and score in transition because of their athleticism. Wall and JaVale McGee are elite athletes for their respective positions, and both Nick Young and Blatche have shown that they are very capable of having 30+ point games if they get rolling. In a lot of ways, this team is similar to the Minnesota team that New Orleans fell to just 5 nights ago; talented, young, raw, capable of scoring in bunches, and incapable of playing defense. Hopefully the Hornets learned from their game in Minnesota and this time they won’t allow a bad team to stick around.


Point Guard: Chris Paul vs. John Wall

Advantage: Hornets

I can’t wait to see this matchup in two years when CP3 is at the peak of his prime and Wall is starting to put it all together. For now we will have to settle for the best point guard in the league matching up with a dynamic scorer who still turns the ball over too much. Wall is blazing fast and almost unstoppable in the open court, but he is fairly easy to handle in half court sets since you don’t have to respect his jumper. He also needs to work on his decision making in order to become an elite point guard.  That is the goal for this year, however, as the Arenas cloud is no longer hanging over Wall or the franchise and the rook is going to grow with each and every mistake he makes.

Shooting Guard: Marco Belinelli vs. Nick Young

Advantage: Wizards

Moving Gilbert Arenas swung the door wide open for Nick Young to walk through it, and so far he has been taking advantage of his opportunites. While he is still a below average defender and a chucker to say the least (less than 1 APG in 27 minutes!!), Young is averaging 21 PPG since becoming the starter and is shooting 48% from three-point land in those games.

Belinelli showed some signs of possibly breaking out of his funk with some big shots in the 4th quarter at Boston, and helped to seal the win by playing fantastic defense on Paul Pierce in the last posession. I credit Dariusz Ejkiewicz‘s banner. His December as a whole however has been horrible, and here is to hoping that the New Year will bring him better luck.

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Rashard Lewis

Advantage: Even

I spent some time a few days ago trying to find starting small forwards who are having a worse year offensively than Trevor Ariza and Rashard Lewis was on the list of guys who were just slightly better. Lewis is having his worst year since his rookie year in ’98-’99, but he has shown some signs of life since getting a fresh start in Washington, going for 21 and 12 with four three’s in a game against San Antonio on Sunday.

Ariza hit a huge shot yesterday that played a big part in ending the seven game slide, but that one shot should not overshadow just how horrible he has been the past month. The fact is that I could not find one regular starting forward who had as bad of a month as Ariza did in November, and one lucky shot does not make up for the glaring hole he has created for this team on the offensive end. If not for his contract, the fact that the team traded a fan favorite for him, and Kobe Bryant getting him a ring, I couldn’t imagine Ariza would still be starting for this team. And if you think I am being hard on the guy, go take a look around the league. I found one team that was getting less offensive production from their starting SF- the Cleveland Cavaliers, who just lost a guy who took his talents elsewhere.

Power Forward: David West vs. Andray Blatche

Advantage: Hornets

In a lot of ways Blatche is an inefficient, immature version of D West. He has a solid 17 footer and can score around the basket, but unlike West he doesn’t have an elite point guard to get him open shots and he lacks a high basketball IQ. Because of this, Wizards fans (and the Wizards coaching staff) have become increasingly frustrated with Blatche- to the point that he is rumored to be on the trading block.

West seems to be alright after rolling his ankle Wednesday against the Lakers, showing no ill effects against Boston on New Year’s Eve. West continues his best offensive season as a pro, and in addition to his efficient scoring, he has improved as a passer from the the high post and out of double teams down low.

Center: Emeka Okafor vs. JaVale McGee

Advantage: Hornets

Some have said that McGee is the second coming of Tyson Chandler and that the Hornets should try to find a way to land him so that a second Crescent City Connection can be formed. I will say that athletically, McGee is even more gifted than Chandler and offensively a CP3/McGee combo could be as deadly over time. The problem with McGee, however, lies on the defensive end. While he does block nearly two and a half shots a game, McGee is not nearly the post defender Chandler was and his missed rotations have cost Flip Saunders numerous timeouts this season. The guy just isn’t there yet mentally, although he is only 22 years old.

On the other end, Emeka Okafor has been playing amazing lately, averaging 15 and 11 over his last six games while also playing fantastic ball on the defensive end. If you take out the Lakers game, The Hornets have outrebounded their opponents by an average of 9 boards per game over the last 13 games and that has a lot to do with Okafor, who has been getting great position and has seemed to break the habit of leaving his feet too early when going up for rebounds.

Bench: Jarrett Jack, Willie Green, Marcus Thornton, Jason Smith vs. Josh Howard, Al Thornton, Hilton Armstrong, Cartier Martin, Yi Jianlian

Advantage: Even

The Wizards don’t have any real size or post up options coming off their bench (unless you consider the immortal Hilton Armstrong a threat) so I fully expect to see the Hornets go with their 3 guard lineup off the bench in this matchup. The problem is that this unit has played horrible on the road as of late, but they were embarressed by coach Monty Williams yesterday- being pulled after just two minutes in the fourth due to poor play. I expect them to come out with a new focus against a poor defensive team today and respond admirably.

For Washington, they lack a floor leader off the bench now that Kirk Heinrich is out with an injury. What they have on that unit is a couple of one-on-one players and shooters who don’t do a real good job of making their teammates any better. Martin and Al Thornton are both streaky offensive players who can get it going at any time. Otherwise, there isn’t much to worry about with this unit.

Other News and Notes:

– The Hornets haven’t won back-to-back road games since November 6th when they beat Milwaukee to reach 6-0. They also are 2-5 on the second night of a back-to-back, losing their last five such contests.

– Washington is cold as of late- shooting under 40 percent from the field in its last four games.

– Hornets are 1.5 point favorites and the over/under is set at 189.5. With the way the Wizards are shooting, combined with how well the Hornets defense played yesterday, and the fact that the Hornets are on a back to back, I say both teams have tough stretches offensively. Hornets 94 Wizards 87.

– After the Hornets win this game, I don’t want to see any cheesy comments about how we are undefeated this year. That was funny when I was seven, but that joke has become so played out that I cringe whenever it is made. If any of your loved one’s, co-workers, or friends make that joke this week, take off your glove, slap them across the face and challenge them to a friendly duel.

– Don’t look this up, just be honest and post your guesses below. Only four teams are averaging less points per game than the Hornets this year: Name them.

– And your last assignment- Please Caption this pic. I know my thoughts when I first saw it, I want to hear yours.


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