Trail Blazers vs Pelicans Sunday, 12/16/12 AT 06:00PM

Trail Blazers Look To Finish Good Week Against Hornets

12/15/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    On Sunday, the Trail Blazers (10-12) will take on the New Orleans Hornets (5-17) at 6PM at the Rose Garden. The game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM. Nicolas Batum talked about the team's need to finish this week the right way, which would mean finishing it with a win against New Orleans to give the Trail Blazers a little three-game winning streak.

    •    When the schedule came out, there was no mistake which two players this game would be about, the two rookies, Portland's Damian Lillard and New Orleans' Anthony Davis. Thus far, Lillard has been a valuable member and the second leading scorer on a better team than Davis but Davis has suffered from bad health. Davis has only played in nine of the Hornets 22 games this year. However, that still hasn't prevented Davis from putting on solid performances, like his 23 point, 11 rebound, five block performance against Charlotte. Those were the type of lines many expected to see but with injuries, the natural adjustment to the league hasn't been easy for last year's best college basketball player. For Lillard, it's looked more like the league has had to adjust to him than for him to adjust to the league. That's not actually the case, but at times he has toyed with opposing defenses like a veteran, but he has surpassed all expectations. Lillard leads all rookies in scoring by more than three points per game. If these two end up on each other on a switch, the flashbulbs will be going off without a doubt. Or at least, they should be.
        
    •    New Orleans really likes to slow things down. Make no mistake, the Trail Blazers don't play at a very fast pace either (22nd in the NBA) but they are at their best when they can run. New Orleans ranks 29th out of 30 teams in the league in pace, averaging almost three fewer possessions per game. Much of that is the team's personnel. Greivis Vasquez is an effective point guard but he is not a player with a lot of speed to his game, despite his ability to get assists. Ryan Anderson, who was acquired in a trade from Orlando, has been their best scorer. Although the reason for him getting so many shots could be attributed to the injury problems early in the season for Anthony Davis, Anderson has been shooting higher percentages from the field and from behind the line than he did last year in Orlando. He is shooting 46 percent from the field, 42 percent from three and 88 percent from the line. Anderson's statistical improvement still hasn't been enough for the Hornets to be a good team. The main reason: they are the worst defensive team in the NBA. They shoot 42 percent from three but they allow 110 points per 100 possessions. Whomever guards Anderson, a true stretch four will be doing a lot of running. This game, much like the previous game with San Antonio, will allow Stotts to go with line-ups placing Luke Babbitt at the power forward position against Anderson.
        
    •    Wesley Matthews status for Sunday is uncertain. He did not practice with the team on Saturday but he may play tomorrow. He told reporters "It's going to be a tough call tomorrow," in Tualatin. If he does not go again, it will likely be Sasha Pavlovic who will start as Stotts has leaned on Pavlovic heavily, as he has averaged 37 minutes per game in the two games Matthews has missed.  Victor Claver was sent to the D-League with Joel Freeland to play some games during the weekend but both will be back for the game on Sunday. So, it is possible Stotts goes with the same starting line-up from the San Antonio game (Lillard, Batum, Claver, Aldridge, Hickson) against New Orleans. Batum (back) and Will Barton (ingrown toenail) did not practice but are both expected to play on Sunday.

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