Game On: Hornets @ Blazers

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Published: March 5, 2012

The Hornets head into the Rose Garden with plans of keeping the Blazers losing streak alive.

The Hornets head into a road game tonight, actually playing better than the team they are set to face. Portland has struggled mightily as of late, falling all the way to 10th in the West after starting off the season red hot. There have been whispers of selfishness coming from the players, but when you start to read the names of the players insinuating that is the problem, practically nobody remains as the culprit. Aldridge, Wallace, Crawford, Matthews, and even newly signed Blazer Joel Pryzbella were all furious after their loss to the T’Wolves (as was I!) and implied that certain guys were playing for themselves and not the team. My money is on Raymond Felton who went 1-9 in that game, and only handed out 4 assists despite getting 31 minutes.

It is the Blazers defense that has been killing them, giving up 112 PPG over their last five contests. They play a lot of small ball, as Camby has only averaged 17 minutes per game over that stretch. Portland’s forwards (Aldridge, Batum, and Wallace) are too talented to keep off the floor, but the lack of bulk on the front line allows opponents to have their way with the Blazers in the paint. Dominating the middle will be the most important key to the game for the Hornets, and here are a few others.

1. Double team LaMarcus Aldridge early and often

In the first meeting, the Hornets chose to play Aldridge straight up for most of the game and got burned. In game two they ran at him hard all night and limited him to just 14 points on 12 shots, and also kept him off the free throw line. Doubling Aldridge opened up the floor a little bit, and Jamal Crawford responded by scoring 31 points, but Monty would take Crawford’s wildly inconsistent jumper over Aldridge’s efficient offense any day of the week.

2. Go under all on picks set for Felton

Raymond Felton is having a horrible year, and despite his lack of success, word coming out of Portland today is that McMillan will actually place him back in the starting lineup. My guess is that the Blazers are trying desperately to trade him and giving him the starting gig will boost his stats and prevent people from seeing him as a malcontent. Regardless, the Hornets have to make Felton beat them. If he does, good for him, but the odds are he won’t, as he comes into the game shooting just 37% from the field and under 25% from deep. And because I haven’t mentioned Lin once in this preview, I will do it now. Remember when Felton was talked about as being an All-Star just last year in D’Antoni’s point guard friendly offense? Yeah, that’s all I gotta say, you can take it from there.

3. Get Belinelli involved early and often

The Blazers perimeter defenders are lazy, plain and simple. Whether it is Felton, Matthews, or Crawford covering Belinelli- none of those guys want to spend their night running through off-ball screens. Look for Belinelli to move a lot in the half court and find space in transition to get his shot off. If he is on, the Hornets could steal this game. If he is off…. well, more ping pong balls I guess?

Other News and Notes:

- Trades, trades, trades- I wasn’t playing when I set up the test for trade proposal certification, and apparently neither were you. I have gotten dead on response after dead on response from most of you and it has restored my faith in the NBA fan. Perhaps Barkley was right when he said that 80% of fans were great and the other 20% need to be taken out back and shot. It’s just that all I kept seeing was that 20% proposing stupid trade after stupid trade and it drove me up a wall. Still, if you haven’t taken the test, take it now and get yourself an exclusive certificate for passing. Also, let me know about your thoughts on our Twitter Deal of the Day and send me ideas for a future Deal of the Day. (note: Magic also send Hornets 2012 1st rounder in this deal)

- I would also love to hear more feedback on whether or not the track record of White American Born Centers should be enough to keep the Hornets away from either of the Zeller brothers or Myers Leonard. I know race can be a touchy subject, but discussing it with dignity and respect can expand our knowledge base and reduce our ignorance.

- Vegas Zone: Hornets started off +11, but the line has moved down to 10.5. Over/under is 187.5, but expect that to go up before game time as gamblers are pounding the over. I would too because Portland’s offense has been horrible. Take the over and the Hornets to cover. If I had to guess, Portland 99 Hornets 95. Money line for Hornets is +500 though. If I had $100 to gamble, I would put 30 on the Hornets money line (get back $150 with a win) and 70 on a cover/over parlay. Go big or go home!