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Game On: Blazers @ Hornets
In a game that figures to be much different than the two teams’ last game in New Orleans, the Hornets host the Trailblazers tonight in the rubber match of their three-game season series.
About 3 1/2 weeks ago, Portland traveled to New Orleans less than 24 hours after a tough road loss in Miami for the two teams’ last game before the all-star break. The Trail Blazers clearly looked fatigued, only mustering 26 points in the first half as they ended up on the receiving end of the Hornets’ most lopsided victory this season, a 99-63 final. This time, however, the Blazers are fresh off of their most impressive victory of the season on Friday night, a 30 point blowout of the team the league-leading San Antonio Spurs which included a 46 point fourth quarter. Rookie of the Year favorite Damian Lillard was the star of the show, pouring in 35 points on 20 shots to go along with 9 assists and zero turnovers. Being on the second game of a back-to-back, the Hornets will likely be without Eric Gordon, and with Austin Rivers also out with his broken hand, New Orleans will be seriously lacking talent on the wings. Here’s how they can come away with a victory tonight.
Three Keys to the Game
- Win the long range battle. The Blazers are in the top third of the league in three-point attempts per game, but they are in the bottom third in three-point percentage. Lillard, Matthews, Batum, and Maynor are the only players who shoot above 35% from that distance, and Batum has been playing through a lingering wrist injury which has impacted his jump shooting recently. All that being said, the Blazers are in the fourth best team in the NBA at defending the three, as opponents are only shooting 33.7% from beyond the arc against them. Without Gordon or Rivers, the Hornets will seriously lack any sort of dribble penetration outside of Vasquez, so making three-point shots will be especially important if New Orleans wants to win tonight.
- Ball control. The Hornets have gone up against a bunch of teams recently that, like themselves, have a tough time forcing turnovers. The Pistons, Lakers, and Magic are all in the bottom five in the NBA in opponents’ turnover rate, and so are the Trail Blazers. Keep the turnovers to around 10 or so tonight, and the Hornets will have a good chance.
- Protect the paint. Only New York and Washington average fewer points in the paint per game than Portland’s 36.6 per game. If New Orleans’ interior defense is strong, it will encourage the Blazers to force up more three-point attempts which, as noted before, they like to take but are not particularly good at converting.
In these two teams’ first meeting in Portland, the Blazers hit a last-second shot to win 95-94. Expect a score much closer to that one than the more recent lopsided affair in New Orleans. Should be a good one; enjoy the game!