Tuesday, April 1st, 2008
Records: New Orleans- 50-22, first place in the Southwest division; Orlando- 47-27, 1st place in the Southeast division;
New Orleans on the road- 22-12; Orlando at home- 23-14
New Orleans is the surprise team of the NBA, as they just keep winning night in and night out despite playing in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. The Hornets are led by MVP candidate Chris Paul, who has become the best point guard in the entire NBA. Paul averages 21.6 ppg., while leading the NBA with 11.3 assists per game. Paul's main weapon is fellow All-Star David West. West is a physical player with a great mid-range game who is averaging 20.2 ppg., and 9.3 rpg. In the middle, New Orleans has former Chicago castoff Tyson Chandler, who makes the most of his enormous size and physical abilities, as he scores 11.6 ppg., leads the team with 12.1 rpg., and blocks better than one shot per game. Rounding out the Hornets starting lineup are sharpshooters Morris Peterson and former three-point champion Peja Stojakovic. Peja averages 16.1 ppg., while shooting nearly 46% from behind three-point range.
New Orleans has talent off the bench, as they bring in guards Mike James and Jannero Pargo. Pargo is having a career year as he's averaging better than 8 ppg. Bonzi Wells can add instant offense at small forward, and Julian Wright and Melvin Ely give the Hornets good minutes as well.
The Hornets are 10th in the league in points scored (100.4 ppg.), 9th in field goal percentage (46.31%), 8th in adjusted field goal percentage (51%), 3rd in three point shooting (39%), 11th in free throw percentage (76.91%), 18th in field goal percentage allowed (45.86%), 5th in opponents scoring (95.4 ppg.), 7th in opponents three point shooting (35%), 9th in steals (7.6/gm.), 3rd in turnovers (11.5/gm.), 28th in blocked shots (3.9/gm.), 14th in rebounding (42.0/gm.), and 14th in assists (21.6/gm.).
Here's how Orlando matches up: 6th scoring (104.5 ppg.), 5th FG % (47.27%), 2nd in adjusted FG% (53%), 4th three point shooting (39%), 24th FT% (72.59%), 8th FG% allowed (44.91%), 13th opponents scoring (99.7 ppg.), 16th opponents three point shooting (36%), 27th steals (6.2/gm.), 17th turnovers (14.0/gm.), 25th in blocked shots (4.1/gm.), 13th rebounding (42.1/gm.), and 22nd in assists (20.4/gm.).
What do the stats say? New Orleans is a well-coached team that doesn't beat themselves. The Magic must defend the three-point shot well if they will have any chance in beating this Western Conference power.
Best matchup for New Orleans: Chris Paul vs. Jameer Nelson- although Nelson has been playing at a fairly high level over the last couple weeks, Paul is simply the best in the business and he can take over any game whenever he wants to. If the Magic double-team Paul, nobody is better at finding the open man.
Best matchup for Orlando: Hedo Turkoglu vs. Peja Stojakovic- Although Peja is one of the world's greatest shooters, he is lacking skill and desire on the defensive end. Hedo should be able to post him up or go right by him almost at will.
Keys to a Magic victory:
1. Slow down Chris Paul. Sounds easy, it's not. Orlando must keep the ball out of Paul's hands as much as possible and possibly defend him with the bigger, more physical Keyon Dooling.Final thoughts: The Magic have another opportunity to defeat a very good team prior to the start of the playoffs. I think they find a way to get it done, as they are very well rested.
2. Grab every rebound. The Hornets won't beat themselves with turnovers, so the Magic must be the more aggressive team and that starts on the glass.
3. Defend the three. New Orleans plays the Magic's type of game, only they do it better. The Magic must have quick rotations and good close-outs and limit the number of open threes.