Game On: Hornets @ Warriors

Published: January 26, 2011

The Hornets travel to Golden State tonight for their first game of a three-game West Coast road trip that will see them face three squads that are unlikely to make the playoffs this year. These are the kinds of games that you look have to win when you are fighting for home-court advantage in a top heavy Western Conference. Currently, the Hornets would be the 5th seed out West, but would actually have home court against Oklahoma City in the first round because they have a better record after defeating the Thunder on Monday night.

If that wasn’t incentive enough, the Hornets are also looking to win their 10th straight game, which would tie a franchise record. In order to do that, however, the Hornets will have to beat a team that came into the Hive just three weeks ago and stole a game from New Orleans in the 4th, 110-103. (box)

In that game, the Hornets led the entire way and actually entered the 4th quarter up by 10 points before Golden State outscored them 38-21 in the final period. Dorrell Wright and Monta Ellis both hit some clutch threes in the final minutes and Golden State practically lived at the free throw line late in the game as they were on the receiving end of some beneficial calls.

The game was strange because New Orleans actually controlled the paint and shot 50% from the field, but they missed 12 free throws on the night, including 4 by CP3 which is about as likely to happen again as Marcus Thornton only getting 4 minutes against this Golden State squad. Another place where this game was lost was in an area that the Hornets usually dominate- the turnover battle. The Hornets turned the ball over 18 times, compared to just 8 by the Warriors. If the Hornets are to start off this road trip right, that can’t happen again.

When the Hornets Have the Ball

There is not a single player on the Warriors who can match up with David West, and quite honestly, they might not even be able to slow him down with double teams. West is that much more physical down low than anybody Golden State will throw his way. The danger is, however, that New Orleans will force feed West and clear out, which tends to bog down the offense and limit ball movement. It has to be a balancing act for the Hornets, as West should be the focal point of the offense in this game, but the burden can not rest on his shoulders. He needs to be a decoy on certain plays and get the ball to the right guys when double teams come at him.

Marco Belinelli had a nice game the last time these two met, scoring 16 points in just 29 minutes. Marco actually took the ball to the rack quite frequently against Golden State, as he recognized how soft they were in the middle. The Hornets as a whole have to do that, perhaps even more than they did last game when they scored 46 points in the paint (almost 10 more than their season average).

This is where I expect Marcus to be big tonight, as I think Monty will continue the trend of giving Thornton the bulk of the minutes at the 2-guard spot. Thornton has shown the ability to both get to the rack and finish and to get into the lane and find open teammates in the last week or so. With his relatively low turnover rate and his improved playmaking skills, look for Thornton to create a lot of the offense for the second unit tonight.

When Golden State Has the Ball

Golden State’s offense revolves around their two volume scorers- Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. Both guys have a PER hovering around 20 and average about 1.2 points per shot, and are just as likely to go off for 45 points as they are to go 4-19. That is what makes Golden State both scary and unpredictable, as you never quite know how those two are going to be feeling on a given night. If one or both catch fire, it creates headaches for a defense, as both players can score from multiple spots on the court. They hit from deep, can get to the rim, have great midrange games, and know how to get to the line. And on top of that, both can create for others- Stephen more so than Monta, but it is part of both of their games nonetheless.

On most nights, those two are going to get their 40+ combined points and most teams are willing to concede that. When Golden State is really rolling, they are getting other guys into the action as well, and this year Dorrell Wright has been the third guy on that team. Wright is averaging a career high 16.5 points per game and is averaging 2.5 three-pointers made per contest. He is benefitting from all the attention paid to Ellis and Curry, as he generally sets himself up on the weak side of the offensive set and waits for an opportunity to get an open look.

David Lee is the only other Warrior averaging double digits this year and he has been on fire as of late, averaging 23 and 11 over his last five games while shooting 58% from the field. Lee gets a lot of his points off of pick and rolls, offensive rebounds, and a nice 16 footer that he has developed over the last three years. Now that he is healthy again, he is going to be a handful for whomever the Hornets decide to put on him tonight.

News and Notes:

– The starting lineups for the All-Star game will be announced tomorrow night and CP3 has been the 2nd leading vote getter amongst Western Conference guards since the first returns were announced. Here’s hoping he is a starter again this year. As a side note, John Hollinger did pick him as the starting point guard over Westbrook in his article today.

– Vegas Zone: Hornets 2 point favorites in this game, the over/under is set at 198.5. So far the Vegas Sharks are siding with the Hornets as 79% of the money has gone on New Orleans -2 and 96% of those wagering are taking the over.

– A strange fact: The Warriors have scored 35 points or more in the 4th quarter against the Hornets in each of their last 4 meetings. The Hornets have only given up that many points in the 4th quarter a combined 5 other times since the beginning of last year.

– Hornets giving up just 85 PPG during this 9 game win streak.

– And finally- IT’S BACK!!! Add the Caption!!!

Joe Will be on ESPN’s Daily Dime Chat throughout the game, so stop by if you have a minute and harass him if you have a minute.


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