From the best to the worst
The Portland Trail Blazers shocked everybody when they took down the San Antonio Spurs 136-106 Friday night, and it’s become clear that this team isn’t going down without a fight.
Matchup: Portland (29-32) @ New Orleans (21-42)
Venue: New Orleans Arena
Time: 4:00 PM PT
Date: Sunday, March 10, 2013
The playoffs are still a long shot with a tough schedule ahead, but they’re just two games out of the eighth spot out West. It can’t be said enough that winning the winnable games is a must at this point, at the last-place New Orleans certainly qualify.
Game Notes/How They Match Up
Coming into this matchup, the Hornets have lost eight of their last 10 games. Portland hasn’t fared well dating back to February, but their showing against the San Antonio Spurs proves that they have it in them to make their mark in a tough Western Conference.
The last time the Hornets played played the Blazers, they destroyed them 99-63. As far as fans in Rip City are concerned, that was a throwaway game, and it’s time to start fresh against one of the league’s worst organizations.
The Blazers are a long ways away from being considered a lock for the postseason, but New Orleans is simply hoping for another miracle in the lottery. Their No. 10 pick, Austin Rivers, is likely done for the season with an injury, meaning that this season is long gone and they’re looking toward the future—the future of the Pelicans.
What to Watch: Portland
The last time the Blazers faced off against the Hornets, so many things went wrong, it’s almost not worth talking about. It’s the type of game the team should just put behind them, and instead of using it as a learning experience, they should forget it altogether.
But then again, we’re not on the team; therefore, let’s reflect on just what went wrong on that night in New Orleans.
For one, the Blazers couldn’t throw a rock into the ocean. They shot just 32 percent from the field, as they missed open shots and forced too many bad looks from start to finish.
Also, this team got zero points in the fast-break department. Transition buckets are often the easiest to convert, and not having a single point in that department takes away from all sorts of easy points.
This group also turned the ball over way too much, didn’t get into the paint nearly enough and didn’t create second-chance opportunities by only grabbing six offensive rebounds the entire game.
Do the Blazers need to address every one of these areas to win this game? Honestly, no. But addressing some of them will be key, as a decent performance will put them over the edge against the worst team in the West.
What to Watch: New Orleans
There’s two things to watch for when it comes to the New Orleans Hornets. First, you have to watch how this team uses Eric Gordon.
If the Hornets use Gordon in isolation sets, the rest of the players become useless while watching one-one-on basketball. Gordon is a great scorer in this league, but the rest of the team suffers when he tries to take over.
The other thing to watch for is defensive effort. Rookie Anthony Davis has the potential to be a great defender, but he and the rest of the team have been guilty of sub-par effort throughout the 2012-13 season.
This team needs to jell as a unit, and when they can do that on both sides of the floor, they’re going to start shaking up the Western Conference.
Eric Gordon’s future with the Hornets is going to be in question for quite some time. He tried to leave the team for the Phoenix Suns last offseason, he’s been quoted in the media as saying he doesn’t want to be in New Orleans and his name was being floated about at the 2013 trade deadline.
What’s not in question, though, is that he’s the Hornets’ best scorer, and he’s going to be a tough cover for Wesley Mattews.
Wesley Matthews is arguably the feistiest defender on the Trail Blazers’ roster. His quick hands and low positioning make him a nuisance on the perimeter, and his strength makes him tough to bully down on the block.
But don’t assume that this is solely going to be a battle of Matthews’ defense versus Gordon’s offense. Matthews has expanded his offensive game this season, and he’s going to provide a tough assignment for Gordon on Sunday.
New Orleans: OUT—Austin RIvers
If the Trail Blazers can take down the Spurs by 30 points, they should be able to handle the Hornets with ease—right?