Game On: Hornets @ Jazz (Live Game Chat)

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Published: March 24, 2011

Matchup: Hornets (40-31) @ Jazz (36-36)
Off Efficiency: Hornets 103.5 (19th), Jazz 105.3 (11th)
Def Efficiency: Hornets 101.1 (6th), Jazz 107.2 (24th)

Pace: Hornets 91.1 (29th), Jazz 94.1 (16th)

Standings: Hornets 7th, Jazz 10th (4 games back of final playoff spot)

Hook up the caption, because there are a lot of things that need to be said about these two characters.

Without Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan, a matchup that was once painful to see on the schedule for the Hornets fans has turned into something relatively desirable. Things can’t possibly be as bad as they were before Utah lost it’s two biggest stars, and that’s good news for the Hornets hopes of getting a much needed win.

It’s reasonable to say that the Hornets could go down as being one of the teams that benefits most from the trade that send D-Will packing. At the time, the Jazz were struggling a little bit, but they were still slated to make the playoffs. Their departure from the scene has made life a little easier for the Hornets on their road to the postseason.

These two teams face each other twice in the final 11 games. Considering that since 2005-2006, when Chris Paul and D-Will entered the league, the Hornets have gone 5-15 against the Jazz, and have won only two of ten games in Utah, they must be thrilled not to have two of those 11 must win games against a team that quite simple, had their number. Make no mistake, this Jazz barely resembles the team from a year ago, or even the Sloan-led squad from only a few months ago.

With the loss to Oklahoma last night, the Jazz effectively have lost all hope of making the playoffs. Even if they win their 10 remaining games, an unlikely scenario to say the least, they would still need some help to make the playoffs. Eight place Memphis is on pace for between 45 and 46 wins, and there are still two teams ahead of Utah who currently find themselves out of the postseason picture. So really, they don’t have much left to play for.

Even better? The Jazz are nowhere near full strength, and as we all know there’s no reason to rush back an injured player just to get a worse pick in the draft.

Injuries

Hornets- None

Jazz- Devin Harris (DTD- strained right hamstring), Andrei Kirilenko (DTD- bruised nerve in right knee in loss to Thunder last night), Favors (active- sprained left ankle, DNP against Thunder. My gut tells me he will play a few minutes)

Matchups

Emeka Okafor vs Al Jefferson

Advantage: Even

I have a hard time not giving this to Jefferson, since the guy has been lighting it up lately on the offensive end, but there’s something about big men who only shoot 50% from the floor, that just bugs me. While Okafor is generally unable to create for himself, Jefferson has a hard time not shooting when he gets the rock inside. Hollinger refers to him as a “black hole” for just that. Still, though two players have very similar points per possession, (1.01 for Jefferson, .99 for Okafor), I would prefer Jefferson’s offensive game to Okafor’s.

On defense Jefferson has actually been pretty good this year. He’s giving up only .80 points per possession to his mark, compared to Okafor’s .77, and is the 27th best post-up defender in the league, according to Synergy Sports. Still, Okafor is better in just about all statistical measures, and the eye test confirms it.

Okafor is the 16th best player to qualify in rebound rate, pulling in 18.6% of all available boards, while Jefferson ranks a respectable 42nd with 16.0%. Okafor tops Jefferson on both the offensive (11.6 vs 9.5) and defensive (25.1 vs 22.5) side of the ball.

So far this year Okafor has been unable to get anything going on the offensive end against Utah, scoring only 11 points on 10 shots, whereas Jefferson has scored 33 points on 29 shots. With the health of the rest of the team in question, I would expect Jefferson to throw up 20-25 shots and score an equal number of points. For Okafor I would be surprised if he scored even 10, but should have the advantage on the boards.

Paul Millsap vs David West

Advantage: West

Millsap is a really good player already, and next year this answer might be different, but for now I’m going to stick with my main man D-West. The the two players are very similar in a lot of ways, from the slick jumper to the guile they display under the basket.

Offensively, Millsap has taken some big steps forward this season. He’s increased his usage rate while keeping his efficiency at a high level, and has reduced his turnover rate to a career low. The Utah power forward is actually averaging slightly more points per possession than West (1.01 vs .97), and he’s doing it at essentially the same rate (20.2 vs 21.4 points per 40 minutes). West remains a better free throw shooter, but it’s hard to make the argument that he’s been better on the offensive side as a whole. I would take West’s offense over Millsap’s in any game that mattered, for what it’s worth.

They are similar rebounders as well, with Millsap actually enjoying a small advantage. He grabs 13.9 of available boards, while West takes down 13.2. West performs slightly better on the offensive glass (7.7 vs 7.4), but Millsap grabs more on the defensive end (20.4 vs 18.6). Not much of a difference, and certainly not enough to make up for our next category.

West actually appears to be a better player overall than Millsap because of the work he does on the defensive side of the ball. D-West gives up an average of .8 points per possession to his mark, compared to .91 for Millsap. For those counting at home, that makes West the 80th ranked player in the league, and Millsap the 256th.

Don’t expect anything more to come in terms of analysis. There is no news yet on Harris, Andrei, Favors. Have questions, comments? Ask them in the chat.

There will be a live chat during the game and for 15 or 20 minutes before and after.

Pre-game Notes

  • The Knicks lost again. That makes me happy. Sorry if you’re a Knicks/Hornets combo fan, but after all the CP3 to NY talk from New Yorkers (which still continues on very old posts) I found my distaste for the Knicks comparable to the way I feel about the Yankees and Tonya Harding. I just can’t help but hope that they lose.
  • Check out a recap of the recent Hornets fan event in the Journal Section, and another one in the Hornets forum
  • Recently the site has been a little slower than usual, but we have our Irish Ninja, Niall, doing what needs to be done to make sure we are prepared for the playoffs. Our apologies for any inconvenience that it may cause you or your loved ones.

Those of you who are over 21 (or 18 if you enjoy games with your parents at home in certain states) are welcome to play the Hornets Drinking Game. This is NolaHog’s baby, so I guess that makes it a piglet.

NolaHog- If you read this and respond to any of the guys on the site, or me, we’ll ship you a free Hornets hat as a token of our appreciation for your contribution to the community. Then my liver will sue you.

Here are the rules. I suggest playing with non-alcoholic beer, since Hornets247 obviously does not condone drinking alcohol of any kind, especially in celebration of the Hornets beating down the Jazz. Also, drink=sip.

1.  David West says, “And One!”                                                         1 drink

2.  Ref actually gives DWest the “and one.”                                           1 drink

3.  Chris Paul rolls the ball through the backcourt                                   1 drink

4.  Okafor or Ariza make a free throw                                                   1 drink

5.  Okafor blocks a shot                                                                      2 drinks

6.  Smith, Gray, or Mbenga dunk                                                         2 drinks

7.  Chris Paul does a fake bounce pass                                                2 drinks

8.  Gray makes the “Aaron Gray Face”                                                  2 drinks

9.  Any alley-oop slam                                                                        3 drinks

10.  Chris Paul gets a technical for telling off a referee                            3 drinks

11.  Camera shot of Hornets fans at away games                                  3 drinks

12.  David West makes a three point basket                                        1/2 beer

13.  Announcers say, “Jack Off the Bench (Hornets Bench, etc.).”           1/2 beer

14.  David West dunks over a defender                                                  1 beer

GEAUX HORNETS!