The on-fire Orlando Magic visit the tepid New Orleans Hornets this evening in hopes of improving their franchise-best winning streak to 10 games. I say "on fire" for Orlando in light of its winning streak and "tepid" for New Orleans because it's gone 14-16 in its last 30 games, without a winning streak or losing skid eclipsing three games; for all its talent, New Orleans remains a fairly average team.
But at always, with a team this gifted, the Magic can't afford to coast. Chris Paul's still the best point guard in the known universe and would have a strong case for MVP were his team on track to win 60 or so games. David West has given Orlando problems with the past, erupting for 40 points in the Magic's last visit to New Orleans Arena. And Emeka Okafor's a solid defensive presence in the low-post, meaning the Hornets should be able to use him against Dwight Howard in single-coverage, and thus pay more attention to the Magic's perimeter players.
What's most surprising about the Hornets, at least on the surface, is their offense, which produces 104.7 points per 100 possessions, a full 1.7 points below the league average. As brilliant as Paul is, he can't force his meagerly talented teammates to make the open looks he sets up for them, I suppose. Trading for Trevor Ariza has improved New Orleans' defense, but it's also led to his taking 10 shots per game at a 38.8 percent clip, including 3.8 threes at 26.2 percent. The Magic will invite Ariza to show off that horrid jumper tonight, the same one the helped sink them in the 2009 NBA Finals, when he caught fire from long range.
Ariza's jacking takes shots away from the six rotation players who boast higher True Shooting Percentages than him, a list which includes Willie Green, who's really not much of a player. It behooves Orlando to play off Ariza. Paul commands a lot of attention, as always, but I'm always wary of letting West pop off. Once he sinks a few 18-footers, he really seems to get rolling, and he's far from a specialist on that end. Cover him.
If the Hornets' excellent D digs in, this game could be a hard slog. But given the star power involved, you'd better tune in, no?
|2010/2011 NBA Season|
|25-12 (10-7 road)
|22-16 (14-5 home)
|January 12th, 2011|
|Fox Sports Florida|
|Jameer Nelson||PG||Chris Paul|
|Jason Richardson||SG||Marco Belinelli|
|Hedo Turkoglu||SF||Trevor Ariza|
|Brandon Bass||PF||David West|
|Dwight Howard||C||Emeka Okafor|
|2010/11 Advanced Stats|
|92.2 (18th)||Pace||89.5 (28th)|
|107.3 (13th)||ORtg||104.7 (22nd)|
|101.3 (4th)||DRtg||102.7 (6th)|