Game On: Nuggets @ Hornets

Published: March 14, 2011

A win on Saturday night moved the Hornets into sixth place out West; a win tonight will put New Orleans in a tie for 5th. Denver comes into the night one game ahead of the Hornets (2 up in the loss column), meaning that a win will create a virtual tie and it will also give the Hornets the season sweep of Denver, which gives the Hornets the higher seed if both finish with the same record.

Denver will be without two key pieces, as both Danilo Gallinari and Aaron Afflalo will be out, but Denver has been one of the hottest and most explosive teams in the NBA since the trade deadline. They are 7-2 without Melo and five of those wins have been by double digits, one of which was by 30 points and another that was by 40. This team can push the pace and can score in bunches, so it will be a contrast of styles to say the least.

When the Hornets have the ball:

David West had a nightmare game last week against Joakim Noah, who stiffled West in the paint and pushed him further and further out on the perimeter. Prior to Noah, only one guy had given West those kind of problems on a regular basis, and that guy is Kenyon Martin. Martin has the quickness to stay in front of West when he drives to the bucket, the strength to keep him from backing him down in the post, and the length to contest perimeter shots. Not many guys in the league can do all three, but Martin can when he is healthy.

In the Hornets previous two games against Denver, West did not have to contend with Martin, but tonight he will and it will likely prove to be the most important matchup of the game. If West can’t get going, then the Hornets will be forced to get the majority of their offense from their perimeter players, who have been streaky at best. Trevor Ariza is 2 for 18 since returning, Jack has been up and down, as has Willie Green. Marco Belinelli is a different story, however, as he has been exceptional since the All-Star break, averaging 13 PPG on nearly 53% shooting and 52% from deep.

We can speculate all day as to who might or might not have a good game, but the truth is that if CP3 truly is back, it might not matter who else shows up to join him. Although it was just one game against Sacramento, there is reason to believe that we have seen the return of our franchise player. If that is the case, then the offense will click simply because he is at the helm going against two below average defenders in Lawson and Felton.

When the Nuggets have the ball:

JR Smith had 31 points in his last game and he attributed his breakout game to the fact that he has stopped thinking so much on the court. Really? Does anybody believe that Smith was playing poorly because he was thinking too much? Well, that is what he will have you believe, as he is now focused on merely catching and shooting, a strategy that led him to go 9-16 from three against Detroit. Good news for the Hornets is that they have been defending the line very well as of late. Bad news is that all trends eventually come to an end.

The key to the game on the defensive end for the Hornets is to limit the two headed monster of Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson. Both guys can push the ball up the court and create nightmares for a defense. They play about half the game together in a small ball lineup that takes advantage of missed shots and turnovers, enabling Denver to go on large runs that could put the game out of reach. The Hornets have to make sure to limit turnovers and to take quality shots on the offensive end, because you want Denver to play as much half-court basketball as possible.

Afflalo and Gallinari are arguably Denver’s two best three-point shooters, so Denver won’t be able to stretch the floor as much as they would normally like in half court sets. With Lawson, Felton, and Gary Forbes all getting increased minutes due to the injuries, it is likely that Denver will rely more on dribble penetration from their guards and low post scoring from Nene if they can’t get into transition. Sounds simple, but it won’t be: Get back on defense and protect the paint and the Hornets win.

Other News and Notes:

– Thanks to Dariusz for the banner. It was his way of donating. He said, “Hey guys I don’t have any money to give, but could you use a Q-Pon?”

– Nene has been the biggest beneficiary of the Melo trade, as he is averaging a team high 16 PPG since the trade.

– Hornets favored by 3 tonight, over/under line set at 199.5. Hornets have covered in previous two games this year and the under won both times. Both trends continue: Hornets 97 Denver 91

– Be sure to sign up for our Hornets247 Bracket Challenge. Free to enter and winner gets CP3 Mardi Gras bobblehead and a jersey. Plus, site bragging rights for the next year. Always good to inflate that ego just a bit.

– Can’t wait to see you guys Cap…This…Pic!!

Last, but not least. We appreciate all of the donations so far and encourage all of you to give if you have a chance. Only 4 more days of us mentioning it and it is gone for a year. We are looking forward to making a big push towards beefing up this site and every little bit helps. Thank you again from all of us!


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