It's been sort of a hide your face start for the New Orleans Hornets this season, but the good news is that Chris Paul is completely healthy again after missing eight games and the Hornets are 4-2 since his return. The Nuggets will be tested at the hive against last season's playoff foe.
The particulars ...
Denver: 19-7 (12-1 at home, 7-6 on the road)
New Orleans: 11-13 (9-3 at home, 2-10 on the road)
New Orleans: are both out.
Opposition's Take: At the Hive
If you have ever questioned George Karl when he says going .500 on the road is a great success, look no further than the Hornets. NOLA is just about as good as Denver at home, but out on the road ... well their 2-10 record speaks for itself and is exactly why the Hornets are on the other side of .500 right now. And you can't point to Paul's injury for all that road blame as the Hornets had four home games and four away games during his absence. With Paul in the lineup the Hornets are 5-3 at home and 2-6 on the road.
And on the road is where the Nuggets will be tonight. Denver has a chance to get a little breathing room above that .500 mark with five of their next seven games coming on the road, but they should not overlook the Hornets tonight.
NOLA has a little bit of a different look this season as they shipped out the oft-injured Emeka Okafor, but they didn't really find a replacement for Butler as Devin Brown (former Nugget) has stepped into the starting shooting guard role (from the bench) and rookie second round pick Marcus Thornton has provided some scoring off the bench (10.6 ppg in 19 minutes per game).and sharp shooting in the offseason. They replaced Chandler with
The Hornets know what it's like not to have their floor general as they went 4-4 with Paul out of the lineup (which is quite impressive). In Paul's absence rookie (21st overall pick) Darren Collison out of UCLA stepped up and filled the starting role nicely. Collison averages 20 minutes per game, 8.7 points and 3.9 assists on the season, but with Paul out his numbers rose to 27.7 mintues, 13.6 points, and 5.8 assists. His turnover ratio climbed just a bit as expected with his increased minutes from 1.85 to 2.5, but still not bad for the "rook".
Since Paul has been back he has been on a tear averaging 15.8 points and 13.7 assists. A.C. and Lawson should each have their hands full tonight.
Denver now faces a similar problem with Chauncey Billups likely to miss a couple of games for the Nuggets. Rookie Ty Lawson has shown he is more than capable at running the Nuggets offense, but the Nuggets have the luxury of not asking the rookie to do to much with veteran Anthony Carter slated to start in Billups' absence. I'm sort of on the fence with the Lawson conundrum. Do you start him and see what he can do or do you keep him protected a bit by bringing him off the bench? It's a tough call, but not disrupting his current role with the team may be the best move at this point in time. But the Nuggets must find a way to replace his 17.4 points and 5.7 assists, but he will still be offering his insight from the bench I would assume.
Staying with the similarity card ... Emeka Okafor's role with the Hornets is eerily similar to the role Nene plays with the Nuggets.
- Season stats for Nene: 13.2 points on 57% shooting, 8.6 rebounds and 1.08 blocks.
- Season stats for Okafor: 10.6 points on 54% shooting, 9.6 rebounds and 1.90 blocks.
Okafor is not much of a focal point on offense, but maybe he should be. Like Nene, Okafor could use more shots as he has only recorded double figure shooting attempts in 8 times this season, likewise Nene has only recorded 10 games of double figure shooting attempt nights.
Okafor typically feasts on the Nuggets and in his career he averages 15.8 points and 13.7 rebounds against Denver, but last season in his two games with theagainst the Nuggets he put up 12 points and 13 rebounds combined. Perhaps Denver has figured out a way to contain the big fella ... we'll find out.
Peja Stojakovic's offense is tailor-made for Carmelo Anthony. Peja is mainly a stand still shooter at this point in his career and when he does take the ball off the dribble he could be guarded by a street post. But veteran players have ways of scoring with angles and Melo must stay in front of him. Peja has hurt Denver with his shooting in the past, so while he is an easy matchup for Melo ... Melo does have the tendency to leak off his man and allow them open looks.
A great defensive matchup tonight will be Kenyon Martin against David West. K-Mart made West a non-factor in the playoff series between the two teams last season and I'm sure West remembers that. Paul and West love to run the pick-and-pop game and Denver has shown they like to trap Paul coming off the screen ... it will be interesting to see how Denver decides to play the pick-and-pops tonight.
Views you can use:
- The Nuggets are 1-0 with Billups out of the lineup ... that one game came on February 4, 2008 in Oklahoma City where Melo's runner in the lane gave Denver a thrilling 114-113 win
- The Nuggets are 48-30 with Anthony Carter in the starting lineup all-time
- Former Nugget Devin Brown plays his best against his former team ... with at least 17 games played against an opponent Brown averages his best numbers against the Nuggets (and ) with 9.1 points per game
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Gus Ruelas