|2008/2009 NBA Regular Season|
|February 18th, 2009|
|New Orleans Arena|
|ESPN / FSN Florida|
|Anthony Johnson||PG||Chris Paul|
|Mickael Pietrus||SG||Rasual Butler|
|Hedo Turkoglu||SF||Peja Stojakovic|
|Rashard Lewis||PF||David West|
|Dwight Howard||C||Sean Marks|
|December 25th: Magic 88, Hornets 68|
The New Orleans Hornets are fresh off a two-point victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, with whom they made a fairly significant trade earlier in the day. The Hornets purged salary by sending Tyson Chandler to Loud City in exchange for Chris Wilcox and Joe Smith, who have expiring contracts. The trade will keep the Hornets competitive in the short-term--Chandler's a great player, but he was the only decent center they had prior to the trade--while alleviating luxury tax concerns long-term. That doesn't make Hornets fans happy, though. One blogger/season-ticket-holder registered her thoughts via Twitter: "I DID NOT PAY $1700 TO WATCH [redacted] CAP SPACE!!!!!"
I have no idea if Smith and Wilcox will be available tonight, but it'd certainly be better for the Magic if they weren't. Dwight Howard would feast upon a Hornets team forced to play Sean Marks and Hilton Armstrong (Merry Christmas!) in the pivot, with David West--a natural power forward--doing spot-duty. The Magic will need every lineup advantage to counteract the absurd talent/skill imbalance at point guard, where Chris Paul will match-up with Anthony Johnson and Tyronn Lue. I imagine Courtney Lee will spend much of his night tasked to guard the young man who has already become one of the greatest point guards of all-time. Just don't leave Rasual Butler open in the corner. He'll kill you from there.
Both teams are coming off hard-fought wins last night, and both teams had to travel immediately afterward. Fatigue might be a factor. I don't want to hear it; this is a team Orlando should beat. The Magic crushed the Hornets on Christmas, jumping out to a 61-31 halftime lead before both teams mailed-in the second half. Even without Jameer Nelson, the Magic are more talented, and deeper, than the Hornets. I still expect a close game, though.