Pre-view, Hornets at Blazers

The Hornets are looking good early this season, racing out to a 3 - 0 start heading into their Tuesday tilt with the Lakers. Blazer fans will note that game is just 24 hours prior to the Blazers home opener against those same Hornets, so there is some positive news.

The negative news is the Hornets seem set on playing defense. They went into Denver and shut down the high-scoring Nuggets, holding them to a mere 88 points on their home court...and over half of those came from Iverson and Anthony who put in 46 points on woeful 32.6% shooting.

The Hornets did not exactly shoot the lights out...they shot 38% as a team. Nor did they have a stand-out performer. Their leading scorer tallied only 17...but they have great balance as 6 guys made the dip into the double digit pool.

Portland struggled against the Hornets the first time they played but that was A) on the road, B) the middle game of a three game opening road stretch and C) sandwiched between games against the World Champion Spurs and the title-contender Houston Rockets.

Mentally, they should be more prepared at home for their home opener. With the Grizzlies on the horizon, there is no reason to "look past" the Hornets.

New Orleans plays a lot of defense and spreads the ball around on offense. Look for Aldridge and Roy to continue their hot starts to the season and Webster to keep looking for his shot. At home, the other guys might be a bit more comfortable. It seems likely Jack and Outlaw will play better at home than they did in Houston and add the scoring punch the Blazers need to be competitive.

Portland will come out jacked up from the home-opener festivities. It would not be surprising to see an 8 or 10 point lead early in the quarter, but New Orleans will buckle down and make up ground after that opening flurry...if the flurry ever occurs.

This will again be a defensive battle and it is doubtful chalupas are on the horizon for Blazer fans for this game, but they should still come away with a 4 - 8 point victory in the low to mid 90s.

Addendum: In light of the beat-down the hot-shooting Hornets laid on the Lakers, it might be time for a reassessment of the game tonight.

The Hornets were hot, no doubt, particularly Peja and his 10 treys and Paul with his assist machine rolling.

Against Portland they will be seeing a revamped line-up with Frye replacing Pryzbilla and Blake replacing Jack.

Pryzbilla backed up what I have been saying all along about him being right for this team; not only did he not complain, he agreed his move to the bench "is probably the right thing for this team". That is not an NBA attitude...most players insist on starting regardless of what the team needs. And the argument that Frye will work better in the starting line-up alongside Aldridge where he does not have to go inside and bang as much sounds good. It will also add a defensive presence to the second unit. At least, that is how the coaches are presenting it and I have to admit it makes sense.

Additionally, Frye looks for his offense a bit more than Pryzbilla who primarily scores on broken plays and offensive rebounds. Frye has better range and moves. Since Portland has had a hard time getting out of the box this year...well, under McMillan, to be honest, since this was a problem last year as well...this can be a positive move in several ways.

The other move...I am not a huge Blake fan. I do like that he wanted to come here and that his teammates like him. I just think Jack has a better upside. Blake will be what he has always been...a 2nd or 3rd tier point guard. The top guys run circles around him and the average guys match him. Paul is a top guy who will have another field day against Blake. Again, Blake has a bit more offense, at least so far this year, than Jack, so perhaps it will be a positive move.

Overall the Blazers are looking to start a bit faster which they will need to do against a red-hot Hornets team that I now slot as a slight favorite, maybe 3 - 5 points, over the wobbling Blazers. Ouch.

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