Game On: New Orleans Hornets @ Phoenix Suns

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Published: December 26, 2011

And… We’re Back!! It’s been a tough couple of months for Hornets fans, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Gone are franchise cornerstones Chris Paul and David West and their patented pick and pop. Instead, the Hornets will rely less on star power and more on teamwork, toughness, and intensity. The roster is full of hungry players with something to prove, and a glance up and down the roster shows that this is one of the youngest teams in the NBA, as the Hornets do not a single player in their 30’s.

Meanwhile, the story reads almost entirely different for this Phoenix Suns. They’ve had very little turnover to a roster that features a 37 year old starting point guard and a 39 year old starting small forward. Minor additions have been made, in the form of rookie first round pick Markieff Morris and former Laker Shannon Brown, but this is primarily the same roster that went 40-42 last year.

Phoenix appears to be bidding time, giving it one last run at the playoffs with their Golden Boy Steve Nash before he becomes a free agent next summer and a total rebuild takes place. Due to their roster consistancy, depth, and coaching continuity, Phoenix might actually be a tough team in this shortened season despite their age. Nash has always kept in phonomenal shape and Grant Hill is a young 39 (if there is such a thing). While other teams struggle to jell early on, don’t be surprised to see Phoenix get off to a hot start and become a dark horse for one of those final playoff spots in the West.

When the Hornets have the ball:

In season’s past, Chris Paul would just eat Steve Nash alive whenever these two matched up. Not only is Paul gone, but so is starting point guard Jarrett Jack, who is serving a one game suspension for a DUI incident last year. And you know they say bad news comes in three’s, so here goes. The Hornets will also be without their leading scorer from the last time these two met, as Willie Green has taken his talent to South Georgia. That’s right, it was against Phoenix last year that Willie had the magical game in which he started 12 for 12 and finished with 31 points. Man, last year seems like so long ago.

What the Hornets do have, however, is some low post firepower that should be able to take advantage of the Suns less than steller interior defense and a matchup nightmare in Eric Gordon. Phoenix will likely start the game with Josh Childress on Gordon, but Childress does not have the quickness or the strength to stay in front of Gordon- and neither does Grant Hill. The only guy who might be able to take away the drive from Gordon in this game is Shannon Brown, but Gordon’s physicality will be too much for the one-dimensional Brown.

Jack’s absence, combined with the Suns inability to match up with Gordon, might result in Gordon facilitating a majority of the offense. Gordon showed vast improvement in running the pick and roll last season, and will have multiple guys he can run it with tonight in Smith, Kaman, Okafor, and Landry. Don’t be surprised if Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli pick up some of the playmaking duties as well during Jack’s absence. The last time Ariza played on the wing next to a high scoring shooting guard, he averaged over 5.5 assists per game and less than two turnovers. Belinelli, meanwhile, has more freedom than he did last season now that Paul is gone and that should result in him showcasing more of his ball handling and playmaking skills as he slides over to the second unit.

Make no mistake, though, this game will be won or lost in the paint tonight. Phoenix often goes small, playing Jared Dudley at the 4, and even when they go more conventional, string beans Channing Frye and Hakim Warrick man the low post for over 60 combined minutes per game. Landry and Kaman will need to take advantage by scoring until Phoenix is forced to double, and Okafor will need to work his magic on the offensive glass to create extra shots for an offense that is bound to struggle in stretches.

When Phoenix has the ball:

As usual, their offense begins and ends with Steve Nash, but don’t be surprised to see Marcin Gortat get a lot of touches in their half court offense. Phoenix likes what they have in Gortat, and as this team passes the torch, Gortat will be the one taking it from Steve Nash. Once raw, Gortat has since developed an all-around game on the offensive end, as he is able to both score inside and drill the mid-range jumper.

Small forward Jared Dudley has returned this season having lost quite a bit of weight as he hopes to take his game to the next level on both ends of the court. Already a deadly outside shooter, Dudley has also added some versitility to his game this offseason and could easily be a sixth man of the year candidate. He will likely see minutes at the three and the four tonight, and when he is playing that stretch four, the Hornets will have to counter with someone like Aminu because Landry or Okafor won’t be able to chase him off screens and contest his shots from outside.

Last year the Hornets were often happy conceding the outside shot if it meant keeping teams out of the paint, but that strategy is likely to backfire against Phoenix. Other than Nash, Phoenix does not really have a player who can put the ball on the floor and finish or create for others now that Aaron Brooks is playing ball thousands of miles in China. Instead, look for the Hornets to close out quickly and make the Suns beat them by taking shots outside of their comfort zone.

Other News and Notes:

* Vegas Zone- Phoenix opened as 7.5 point favorites, but that has recently dropped to 6.5 as most of the early betting ha seen the sharps taking the Hornets money line or plus the points. The current line is down to 6.5.

* Our second favorite team is in action tonight as well! Of course I am talking about the WIPTT’s (Whoever Is Playing The Timberwolves). The WIPTT’s feature Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook and are looking to go 2-0 tonight, while dropping those hated T’Wolves to 0-1.

* NBA 2K12 sim- Hornets win 104-98 behind 36 from Eric Gordon and 17 from Chris Kaman. 2K expects Shannon Brown to give us problems off the bench as he went for 20 in his Phoenix debut.

* Greivis Vasquez is likely to play and might even start, but newly signed power forward Gustavo Ayon can not play due to Visa issues. Perhaps he maxed it out on Holiday gifts.

* Vegas Zone 2- Interesting bet that Vegas has posted. Drew Brees passing yards tonight vs. total points scored in Hornets/Suns game plus 100. What would you take?

* Mikestradamous prediction! Yeah, I am gonna go with this nickname until I wear it out or until my predictions stop coming true. Here goes: Suns 97 Hornets 91. Phoenix is in the same system with a lot of the same players and the Hornets will have too many stretches of bad offense to pull this game out. On a bright note, however, Mikestradamous also forecasts a Timberwolves loss! 2012 draft baby!

 

43 comments
yankeesman77
yankeesman77

Great win tonight! Won by some stifling defense, rebounding and Commissioner Gordon! I feared when the Suns really got going to start the 2nd half, we wouldn't be able to answer back but the Hornets kept it close throughout. Playing smart basketball also helped by not turning the ball over too much. Would have liked to have seen some more passing and assist totals but when Gordon wanted to take that shot, he created, elevated, and fired away. Big problem I took away from this game was allowing both Robin Lopez and Marcin Gortat have their way down inside the paint and posterizing away on Kaman and Emeka. When you have bodies like that create in the paint, the point is to try and use the body to make sure if they do go that they won't go back again. Watching them go for a combined 14-21 from the floor and 34 points with 12 rebounds has to be improved especially against tougher bigs coming up on the schedule. Even without Paul Pierce (if he isn't playing), the Boston Celtics still pose a very dangerous threat with Rondo and KG and Ray Allen coming to New Orleans. Their bench is in shambles but they will still play hard for Doc Rivers. The Celtics will likely run a very quick and pop game mostly relying on Allen while trying to get KG some Mid-range shots. Also look for Brandon Bass to create some trouble down in the paint. I've always liked him and thought he could be a great fit on this Hornets team. Excellent win tonight in Phoenix. Great job by Monty and Trevor, don't ever shoot the basketball again. Thanks (From: Every NOH Fan). Sincerely, Nick Malone LI's biggest Hornet fan

JaeAmazin
JaeAmazin

When you have a Program you will Compete every Night..We're gonna be Tough all Season..Hornets Bitch!!

Bee dat
Bee dat

bee dat!! lookin forward to the great prognosticators who run this site eat crow on those 18-25 win predictions didnt get to see the game, sounded like a mixed bag from grievis, some nicelaus with a bunch of to's, nice he was able to contribute after one day of practice, huge win minus our starting pg bey david stern is as happy as us that the gorgon hit the gamewinner, not to mention the big defensive play in the last min lets hit those free throws, not good enough to win regularly if we miss that kind of percentage

Nik
Nik

i was gettin getting chills watchin that last shot by gordon... kinda reminded me of another pg that used to play in NO, just can't seem to remember his name...

Stew
Stew

Baron Davis?

nolahog
nolahog

And Brees just got the passing record. What a night to be a New Orleans sports fan!

ur_gmas_daughter
ur_gmas_daughter

Since we're all jumping in here....Commissioner Gordon the new face of the franchise!

Mark
Mark

Gordon's getting paid next year

MaskedTalent
MaskedTalent

ERIC GORDON IS ICE COLD BABY! DID YALL SEE THAT SHOT!!!! DAMN! I'M IN LOVE! PLAYOFFS!

Leonel
Leonel

One and Oh! Keep that scowl EJ.

kempleton
kempleton

HORNETS WIN!!! YEAH! GEAUX HORNETS! 6 PLAYERS WITH DOUBLE DIGITS!

kempleton
kempleton

Hornets win with their hustle and defense again. Congrats! Phoenix Suns was a 105 PPG team last year!

nolahog
nolahog

Sorry Phoenix. No bulls#@t goaltending to save you this year!

kempleton
kempleton

Booooom! Gorgon with the jumper and 85-84 Hornets with 4 seconds left!

kempleton
kempleton

83-84 33.9 seconds left and Ariza misses 2 free throws. You gotta be kidding me! He had all that lockout time to practice his free throws and this is what we have to watch???

Mark
Mark

Another season, another "TREVORARIZASONOFAB$*&#"

Drew
Drew

T'wolves lost!

sundance
sundance

So Marco forever becomes a part of Hornet trivia as that player who replaced Chris Paul. lol

Drew
Drew

Gordon has such nice handles

Leonel
Leonel

Take it EJ. You're the focal point of our offense. Don't be shy now.

Leonel
Leonel

Belly at the point.

Leonel
Leonel

Tip-off. It's On! I'm IN!

NOS-3RD GEN
NOS-3RD GEN

Man hornets got this games, I think the hornets are still in playoffs contention and that this game will prove that we are some body with out chris paul. Most people may have lost faith in the hornets but I would never lose faith in the hornets

yankeesman77
yankeesman77

Any chance of there being a live chat during the game tonight guys? I really enjoyed those last year.

HornetsFan24/7
HornetsFan24/7

C'mon MAN!!!!! Don't talk about the 2012 draft, UNTIL 2012! Not sure about ya'll, but I'M IN!!! Not for the 2012 draft, but for THIS season. GEAUX HORNETS!!! BEAT THE SUNS!!

crowmania18
crowmania18

Hornets will win this game and the hornets will be a threat all season. Mark my words we will be a better team than last year!!! Crowmania18 has stated it! we win tonight 94-hornets suns 86. Watch out! Hornets will bed rockin this year!

Jake
Jake

Yea that's wat I like to hear, I'm witcha bro

PP3istheMVP
PP3istheMVP

Phoenix's defense is worse than our "bad offensive stretches" we are "supposed to have. We will continuing dumping the ball in the post with Landry, Emeka, and Kaman and force them to double up. Cue the 3 point shots and pump fake and drives to the bucket for EJ, Marco, and Trev. Easy win tonight but because of lockout legs and the immortal Steve Nash ill say its relatively close. Hornets-92 Suns-84 Geaux Hornets!

Okithor
Okithor

You just had to sneak a Wiilie Green reference in there! : ) Let's go hornets.

xxNOLAxHORNETSxx
xxNOLAxHORNETSxx

I say landry and kaman combine for 40+ points tonight... Lets Go Hornets!!

Chris Trew
Chris Trew

I got excited just seeing a regular season game preview.

J
J

Vasquez is starting for Jack CBSsports.com reports

504ever
504ever

Belli is starting according to the T-P.

Tyler
Tyler

GEAUX HORNETS!!!

Nithenz
Nithenz

Hornets makes a statement tonigth that they will play hard all season with great defense. Hornets 89 Suns 82. You heard it here first!

JT's Hoops Blog
JT's Hoops Blog

Doesn't matter who wins are losers because both teams will be lottery fodder by season's end. Hopefully nash gets traded sooner than later

Jason Calmes
Jason Calmes

Mike, I know we're all a bit rusty, but I don't see anything here about Billy Hunter, Kessler, or BRI. C'mon, man. People come here to read about basketball and all you can talk about a game and points. Tighten it up!