Game On: Hornets @ Bulls

Published: March 7, 2011

Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, Quincy Pondexter, and Willie Green. Ladies and Gentlemen, that is the perimeter rotation for the Hornets tonight. If I had told you one year ago that the Hornets would be relying on these four to go into a hostile environment against the Eastern Conference’s hottest (and perhaps best) team, would you have believed me? Would you have even wanted to know?

Chris Paul’s injury isn’t as bad as first feared, but he will be out tonight and it is likely that Ariza will miss the game as well with a strained groin. That means that the Hornets are going to have to find a way to slow down MVP candidate Derrick Rose and the often underrated Luol Deng without their two best perimeter defenders. It also means that the Hornets are going to have to find a way to create offense against the league’s second best defensive team without a playmaker. The five guys starting tonight average a combined 6.7 assists per game, and even if you throw Willie into that mix, you are still under 8 per game.

This Chicago defense is tough when it is able to get set, but it becomes nearly impossible to defeat when the opposing team can not generate constant ball movement. If the Hornets are hoping that they can just use West and Landry to bully the Bulls front line like they did to Cleveland last night, then they will be in for a long game. To be successful against this Bulls defense, teams need to do two things well; have great ball movement off of penetration and get to the free throw line. Witness Chicago’s loss just two weeks ago against Toronto where the Raptors had 43 field goals (29 of which were assisted) and took 34 free throws.

On the other end, it is going to be extremely tough for Jack to stay with Rose, as we have seen him exposed by point guard’s with half of Rose’s quickness and athleticism. It will be interesting to see if Monty decides to put Belinelli on him for stretches to counter the quickness and to better challenge Rose’s jump shot. The other tough matchup will be rookie Quincy Pondexter going up against Luol Deng, who is a savvy vet that seems to fly under the radar despite his considerable skills. Deng is steady and gets a lot of his points off of kick-outs by Rose. If Derrick Rose is breaking down the Hornets defense at will, Q-Pon might get caught peaking on occasion and leave Deng for some wide open looks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Willie Green gets most of the minutes at the 3 tonight, despite the fact that he will be giving up nearly six inches to Deng.

We can try to be as positive as possible heading into this game, but the truth is that this is just not a good matchup for the undermanned Hornets, and a victory here would probably be the most unlikely win of the season. Chicago is back at full strength and clicking right now, while the Hornets have been a MASH unit since the beginning of February and are without their leader. Perhaps the Bulls are mentally fatigued from their battle with Miami, perhaps the Hornets will dedicate this game to CP3 and will fire on all cylenders, and maybe Chicago takes this game too lightly- who knows? That’s why they play the game.

Other Notes and Observations:

– No timetable set for CP3’s return, although I am sure that he will be begging the staff to be back on the court when the Hornets return home to face the Mavericks on Wednesday night. Thanks to Dariusz for the banner, as he says the motivation behind it was to get CP3 better. Lets hope it works.

– West didn’t seem bothered at all by the ankle injury, but he is still not 100% and it is something to continue monitoring. Hopefully the Hornets are getting all these minor injuries out of the way and can head into the playoffs at 100%.

– D West does not play well at Chicago (just 10.6 PPG on less than 40% shooting) and the Hornets have not fared well there as a team, losing four of their last five while scoring less than 88 PPG as a team.

– Bulls have won 16 of their last 17 at home. While their defense has been great both at home and on the road, it is their offense that makes the difference at home, as they shoot 47% at home and 45% on the road, scoring nearly 4 more PPG at home as a team.

– Since coming to New Orleans, Jarrett Jack has played in 8 games where he has gotten 25+ minutes. In those games he is averaging 17 PPG, shooting 59% from the floor and 56% from three.

– After tonight, the Hornets only have 5 more road games left. Hornets will come home tonight and will not have to leave the comfort of their own beds until March 23rd. After a three game road trip, the Hornets will have another long stretch at home from March 28th- April 9th. Getting the 4 seed might not be doable, but this is a great chance for the Hornets to separate themselves from Memphis, Portland, and Denver. With the way the Lakers are playing, they are likely to eventually pass Dallas for the #2 seed, which means that New Orleans wants to do whatever it can to avoid that #7 seed.

Vegas Zone: The opening line before both teams played their games yesterday was Bulls -8. Surprisingly, after the Bulls big win and CP3’s concussion, the line only moved to 10. The Hornets have not been double digit underdogs in any game this year. The over/under is also a season-low for the Hornets at 179.5. Of course, whenever all of the facts point one way, the smart thing is to bet the other way. Hornets stay close and both defenses take a night off. Bulls 102 Hornets 99.

– And now, my favorite feature on Game On posts….. Cap…… That……. Pic!


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