Game On: Wizards @ Hornets

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Published: February 1, 2011

Matchup: Wizards(13-34) @ Hornets(31-18)

Note- Buzzfest is canceled tonight.

Off Efficiency: Wizards 99.6 (28th), Hornets 103.3 (16th )
Def Efficiency: Wizards 106.5 (21st), Hornets 99.1 (3rd)

Pace: Wizards 96.1 (9th), Hornets 91.4 (29th)

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Anyone who thought that a game against the Wizards in early February would be one of the most important games of the year for New Orleans, please take a bow. The need for a win against the Wizards can’t be overstated, considering that for the first time this season (and ever as a Hornets player), Emeka Okafor will be out of a game, leaving the squad with what an optimist might call an understaffed front court. Combine that with a two game losing streak and the Hornets have the potential to yet again go from the league’s hottest streak into a rut.

In the past I’ve talked about how the Hornets are one injury away from disaster, and although that can be said about a lot of teams, we are going to witness how one minor injury effects the Hornets ability to win games. It also reaffirms the need to add another frontcourt player.

The loss of Emeka Okafor means a likely starting nod for Jason Smith alongside David West. The downgrade from Okafor to Smith means that a clear front court advantage for the Hornets over the Wizards is all of a sudden a draw at best. Rebounding will prove to be the most notable concern, as Emeka Okafor grabs 19% of total available rebounds when he’s on the floor. Jason Smith is bringing down 13.5% coming into tonight’s action. Team rebounding, always a priority for Monty Williams, will be even more important tonight. I would expect him to reemphasize that to the team before the game.

Expect DJ Mbenga, David Anderson, and even David West to see considerably more minutes than usual tonight, and for Aaron Gray to be at the very least available.

For the relatively unknown David Anderson, a 30-year old Australian playing in only his second NBA season, this represents a chance to put himself in the regular rotation for the first time with the Hornets. He has a wicked jumper, and is considered to be a potential offensive force to be reckoned with (See? I’m an optimist). Think Jason Smith, before people realized that if you guard him he’s mostly ineffective. In addition Anderson supposedly has a three point shot. He struggled adjusting to the longer line in his first year, hitting at only 34.6%, but with Okafor out he will have an opportunity to show improvement in the upcoming games. The Hornets could certainly use a three point shooting center who stands at 6’11, even when Okafor is healthy.

Are you still wondering why this game is so important for the Hornets, or have I made you forget your earlier curiosity?

This year, seven of the Hornets 18 losses have been against teams which currently have losing records, including the lowly Timberwolves, and Kings. Tonight, they face an opponent even lower on the NBA totem pole. The Washington Wizards hold the unique distinction of being 0-24 on the road this year, and if history has taught us anything, it’s that eventually streaks like that get broken. If the Hornets have taught us anything over the past three years, it’s to be wary of games like this one.

Losing two games in a row to teams with losing records (and Emeka) had to be a bit of an emotional let down for the Hornets. Both were winnable, and after dominating much of their the competition over their previous ten game winning streak, it’s hard to imagine their short road trip going any worse.

The Wizards know this. Their hunger for a road win grows with each passing day, and I think it’s going to be on display tonight. Expect the Wizards to come out full of energy, and for Javale McGee to at the very least be given every opportunity to have a big night. The Hornets don’t have a match for him on defense.

At the end of the season the Hornets play three games in four days against the Grizzlies, the Mavs, and the Jazz. Those games are going to matter in playoff seeding, and in reality, a win tonight against a team they should beat, will mean that they head into those matchups one game higher up in the standings than they would be otherwise.

The Hornets need this one, not only to add another W in the win column, but to prove to themselves, their fans, and the rest of the NBA, that they can take a couple body shots and still keep winning fights. Monty Williams know this, and you can bet he’s doing everything in his power to make sure his team does as well.

Pregame Notes-

  • QueenBee makes a good point about the weather- It is disgusting outside. Even though the rain is supposed to stop, it’s still going to be windy and dark. Expect a sparse crowd, and hope to be surprised.
  • The Hornets have won 22 or 33 against the Wizards, dating back to 3/12/99.
  • Paul, Belinelli, Ariza, West, Smith is the fifth different starting lineup of the year for the Hornets

Notes From Monty’s Pregame Press Conference (plus video)

  • Monty said in that the team will go small often, using Ariza at the 4 and David at the 5. He didn’t seem too enthused about it, noting that it’s works for short, but not long stretches this year.
  • He said that tonight promised to be a tough game, especially considering that last time in Washington the team trailed by double digits, and was had to battle back to escape with a win.
  • He was concerned that the Hornets had allowed three straight opponents to score over 100 points.
  • Williams added that Marco Belinelli needed to play better better defense.
  • DJ MBenga is behind Jason Smith on the depth chart right now.
  • Aaron Gray is active.

Also, I’ll be on the Daily Dime Chat for most of the game, so stop by and say hello if you have a minute.

Thanks to DariusZ for the amazing game day banner!

And don’t forget to check out today’s Bee Bite.

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