Tough loss last night, another gritty effort against a decent team from the West, but the silver lining was another step on the The Road to Anthony Davis, which now has three obstacles: Charlotte, Washington and tonight’s opponent, New Orleans.
The Hornets were the focal point in the offseason due to the much-publicized Chris Paul sweepstakes. A trade with the Los Angeles Lakers was controversially nixed by the NBA and the initial trade with the LA Clippers was re-worked so that the Hornets would also get star Eric Gordon so that the team would be somewhat competitive despite losing a superstar like Paul.
Well, hasn’t really turned out like that for the only NBA-owned franchise in the league. Eric Gordon, as we all know, has been hurt all year and will likely miss the remainder of the season. You know he’s in no rush to come back with the Hornets so far out of the playoff picture. With Sacramento playing slightly better recently, this team is well on it’s way to being the worst team in the West.
That being said, the Raptors are on the road, and any team in the NBA can be dangerous on their homecourt right? Nope. New Orleans is an abysmal 3-14 here, actually performing better on the road (5-12).
Let’s take a quick look at the matchups:
Spain vs. Venezuela. This is the most intriguing element of tonight’s tilt. Grevis Vasquez has kept the starting job even with Jarret Jack’s return, and he has done a decent job distributing the ball and has put up some very decent games recently. There’s a lot of similarities to Jose Calderon in playing style, but Calderon is clearly playing on a another level right now and should school the young upstart.
A familiar face in Marco Belinelli lines up at the 2. When you’ve got a Raptor reject(is castaway a nicer word?) getting his name announced as a starter, you know the team is hurting a little on the talent side. We all know what Marco brings. The occasional shooting performance sprinkled in with a lot of mediocre games. One of the few game where DeMar DeRozan has a clear advantage and anything less then 8-10 FT attempts tonight by him will be unsatisfactory.
Trevor Ariza vs. James Johnson. As well as James Johnson has been playing recently, he’ll still be in tough against an athletic shooter like Ariza. Capable of going off any given night, Ariza must be contained at the three-point line, which is a rich source for many of his 20+ point performances. Limit these attempts and make him put the ball on the floor, which he should be good at, but isn’t terribly comfortable doing. James just needs to stay consistent and keep doing what he’s been doing recently: Pick your spots offensively, be aggressive and maintain that defensive intensity.
Gustavo Ayon has been a pleasant surprise for the Hornet’s. Has a good motor and is a lot like a poor man’s version of Luis Scola. Amir should be able to outperform Ayon but like pretty much any of our starter’s, consistency is an issue.
This is where the Hornets can have a real advantage. We all love Aaron Gray with his hustle and size, but Chris Kaman can be a beast, and is playing well right now. Gray is actually the one guy who might be able to slow him down and can match Kaman physically, but if the Hornets are smart and establish Kaman early, it’ll open up the floor for their decent shooters.
The Hornets bench is, well, Jarret Jack. He may get a lot of minutes because it’s his old team and all that. We all know Jarret Jack can play, and if develops any chemistry with Kaman then he alone will outperform the likes of Kleiza, Barbosa, and Ed Davis.
In summary, this is a very winnable game folks, and that’s whats worrisome for Tank Nation. Unless you do something crazy like bench one of our better starters for the entire fourth quarter, but who would do that right? Right?