After yesterday’s second half no show against the Grizzlies, the Hornets (46-34, 28-12 at home) look to rebound tonight in their home finale against the Jazz (37-43, 17-23 on the road). With two games remaining in the season, the Hornets are currently tied for the 7th/8th seed with the Grizzlies and sit one game behind the Blazers for the sixth seed. The Hornets hold the tie breaker over both teams, and the Grizz and Blazers still have a game against each other tomorrow night, so the Hornets ultimate playoff seed (and playoff opponent) are still very much in flux. The Jazz, on the other hand, know exactly where there season will end: on the golf course. Since trading all-star point guard (and Chris Paul arch-rival) Deron Williams, the Jazz have been one of the worst teams in the leauge, going 6-17 since the trade. However, the Jazz’s season was falling apart even before the trade, and since a hot start, the Jazz have actually been one of the league’s bottom feeders.
I’m sure everyone remembers the last meeting between the two teams, a thrilling overtime win for the Hornets after Oak hit a crazy turn around fade away buzzer beater. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the highlight of the game for the Hornets: the highlight (or lowlight) was David West blowing out his ACL after a thunderous dunk with about 30 seconds left in regulation.
Chris Paul and Jarrett Jack versus Devin Harris
Chris Paul is coming off the first scoreless game of his career, and he looked UGLY doing it. Harris is coming back from missing seven games with a hamstring industry, but has come on pretty strong in the two games since his return: scoring almost 20 points per game with 7 assists and shooting 50% (6 for 12) from three. Harris missed the last meeting between the two teams, and Chris Paul feasted in his absence, scoring 24 points (8 of 15 shooting) and adding 12 assists. Let’s hope he can do that again tonight. I’m gonna throw in a bonus note on Jarrett Jack here- in the last meeting between the two teams, he had 15 points (5 of 11 shooting) and the Jazz’s back court depth is a bit weak, so look for him to takeover at the beginning of the second and fourth quarters.
Carl Landry and Emeka Okafor vs Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap
Last time the two met, the Jazz big men DESTROYED the Hornets. Jefferson had 22 points (11 of 17 shooting) and 13 boards while Millsap had 33 points (13 of 20 shooting) and 11 boards as NO ONE on the Hornets could stop the two. Fortunately, the two couldn’t stop David West, who had 29 points on 12-25 shooting before his injury. Landry and Oak need to step up the defense on the Jazz big men AND pick up some (not all, just some) of the offensive slack left from DWest’s absence. A tall task, yes, but the two have certainly upped their game since DWest’s injury and I think they can do it tonight. I do know one thing- if the Jazz big men approach anywhere near the effeciency they had in the last matchup, the blow out by the Grizzlies last night will look like a nail bitter, as the Jazz will ROLL the Hornets.
Ariza seems to finally be putting it together this season, passing up contested threes and jump shots and using a strong show and drive move to get the hole. His resurgence has made the Hornets offense much more effecient, and it all started in the last game against the Jazz. Ariza had great success, and was also the only Hornet who seemed capable of grabbing rebounds. The Jazz’s SF position is something of a poo-poo platter, so look for Ariza to have a big game.
The Hornets are 7 point favorites. Given the way the Hornets played last night and that they are on the second night of a back to back, that seems generous. Throw in how much the Jazz big men destroyed us even when we had West in, and the line seems outright ludicrious. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ll take the points and pick the Jazz to upset and reeling Hornets team.
Jazz 105, Hornets 98