Game On: Trailblazers at Hornets – Drive Slow

Published: March 30, 2011

Matchup: Blazers (43-31) @ Hornets (42-32)

Off Efficiency: Blazers: 108.6 (10th); 106.1 (20th)

Def Efficiency: Blazers: 106.6 (14th); 104.4 (6th)

The Hornets and the Trailblazers have a lot in common right now beyond their close proximity in the standings. They’ve both been plagued by injuries, sometimes struggle to score, and traded for athletic power forwards at the deadline.  The most remarkable similarity, though, is the pace at which they play the game; they’re two of the slowest teams in the NBA.  The Hornets are 28th in pace, the ’Blazers are 30th.  If Vegas set a line on total possessions, the number for this game would be about as low as it could get.

The Blazers are coming off a Sunday/Monday back-to-back consisting of a tough loss in Oklahoma City and an uninspired win in San Antonio where the Spurs played without Parker, Duncan, Ginobli, or McDyess, and the Blazers still had trouble putting them away.  The Hornets have had a couple of days to rest at home (and really, it looked like they got some rest during the Lakers game, too).  This really could be a deciding factor in the game, especially at this point in the season – to say nothing of the Hornets’ need of the break to adjust their rotations in light of West’s season ending injury.

With Brandon Roy’s knees betraying him and limiting his PT, LaMarcus Aldridge is now the on-court leader for Portland.  He’s always been a great athlete and excellent shooter, but he’s developed more toughness and a far more powerful presence in the paint on both ends of the floor.  The Hornets’ defensive discipline will be crucial against Aldridge; because of the diversity of his game, he requires frequent double teams and smart switches.

Even though Aldridge is the star now, the biggest match-up challenge for many teams this month has been Gerald Wallace.  He’s a  quick, athletic four with great shot selection.  In other words, we need a great game from Landry.  Landry and Wallace might be described as very similar players: offensively gifted power forwards.  Wallace’s acquisition made a bigger splash and a lot of folks consider him a better defender than Landry.  While Wallace might get a lot of steals,  I’d rather have the guy who’s willing to take a bite out of Dirk’s elbow if need be (if you’re doubting Landry’s toughness, watch his nonplussed reaction to losing several of his teeth).  Landry  needs to be able to stop Wallace (or, barring that, outscore him) and be willing to switch on to Aldridge when we need him.

As a certain recently acquired Knick might say, this game (along with all the other games from here on out) is “almost a must-win.” If you’re at the hive tonight, make sure to bring the noise.

Other notes:

  • A win tonight would give us the tiebreaker with Portland, meaning a better shot at seeing the Mavs in the round one.  Of course, given the way the top four teams are playing right now, it’s not inconceivable that the Lakers could trade spots with the Spurs and the Thunder could trade spots with the Mavs in the standings.  Still, let’s win this one, right?
  • Brandon Roy’s back seized up on him in the OKC game and he took some hard fouls in San Antonio, so his already limited minutes may be even more so.  Nate McMillan has been deploying Roy wisely, saving him for situations where the team can use his focus, intelligence, and killer instincts.  Roy is also still capable of short stretches of brilliant defense (just watch Kobe’s game winner over him from the previous weekend—Kobe made the clinching shot despite Roy’s perfect defense on the play)
  • One of the ways the Blazers slow the game down is with the intermittent use of the zone to disrupt their opponent’s offensive flow.  What’s a great way to shred a zone?  A perimeter shooter makes a couple of early threes, forcing the D to play tight on the shooter, opening up lanes for the ball handler to penetrate or distribute.  If Bellinelli or Green can hit some deep shots early, it should help Paul create some easy buckets.  Here’s hoping Marco recovers from his Sunday shooting woes.

This post is courtesy of Scott Carter-Eldred, who won the I am Hornets247 Grand Prize for our donation drive.   It’s nice that the Hornets community produces intelligent fans, yes?  For more of Scott, catch him on the upcoming podcast, where he helps me make Michael look foolish and we have a segment about Quincy Pondexter and his future with the squad.

Notes From the Arena

  • Since taking over as a starter, Landry has averaged 21.5 points and 8.0 rebounds in 37 minutes.
  • A Hornets win would give them the advantage over the Blazers in a tie-break thanks to winning the season series.
  • Hornets are first in the Western Conference in points allowed per game, and the Blazers are second.
  • Monty talked about how he doesn’t talk to Nate McMillan anywhere near as much as he did in the beginning of his season, referring to whether or not the fight for playoff seeding had affected their relationship.
  • David West walked by on a crutch about halfway through the pre-game interview, drawing a question about him. Monty said that you can’t hope to fill David West’s shoes, but instead the team needs to focus on playing better defense in his absence.
  • He talked a little bit about LaMarcus Aldridge’s rise this year to performing as the franchise cornerstone, saying it was unexpected, even within the organization.
  • A Blazers reported asked him about whether or not he would attack Brandon Roy on offense. Monty wouldn’t say.


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