After Friday nights no show against the Grizzlies, the Hornets (43-33, 25-12 at home) play host to the Pacers (35-42, 13-26 on the road) tonight. It's gotten almost impossible to forecast what seed the Hornets will end up with or who their most likely opponent will be, so there's really no point in playing the "let's hope for a loss to avoid the Lakers" game anymore. Instead, let's just do what fans should do: keep rooting for Hornets wins so we can ride a hot streak to the playoffs! The Pacers are riding something of a hot streak into this game, having won their past three games, and need to keep winning to pass Charlotte for the final playoff spot in the east.
The two teams have already met once this season. DWest hit a jumper with four seconds left to give the Hornets a one point lead, but Mike Dunleavy responded with a tip in at the buzzer to give the Pacers the win.
Remember him? The Hornets traded Collison in the deal that ultimately brought Ariza to the Hornets. Collison has been solid but not spectacular so far this season, and he comes in on a bit of a shooting hot streak, having shot 22 for 29 in his past three games. In the first meeting between the teams, DC actually outplayed his former Hornet teammate, scoring 18 points on 8 of 11 shooting and adding 5 assists and 5 boards versus CPs 15 points on 4 of 11 shooting, 4 assists, and 4 boards. Plus, DC forced CP3 into an uncharacteristic 6 turnovers. With the way CP3 is playing lately, I could actually see him putting up similar numbers tonight, and if he does, the Hornets will have a pretty tough time pulling this one out.
Speaking of Ariza, he did a decent job on Pacers star in the first meeting. Granger did have 27 points, but Ariza made him work for it, holding Granger to 8 of 22 shooting. Granger comes in on a bit of a cold streak, having shot under 40% in his past five games. The Pacers have been doing a good job scoring without him, but if Ariza can shut him down, the Hornets will have a great chance of winning.
Oak vs Roy Hibbert
Oak was dominant in the first meeting between these two teams, scoring 19 points on 7 of 8 shooting and adding 15 boards. He also held Hibbert to 2 points on 1 of 10 shooting and 3 boards. That's a monster performance that we had grown somewhat accustomed to before Oak got hurt. Honestly, I think Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers big men (outside of Tyler Hansbrough) are just too soft to keep up with Oak when he goes into beast mode. I think Oak comes into the game looking to dominant a soft front court and has a huge game.
The Hornets are 5 point favorites. Honestly, I see the Hornets winning tonight, but I think it's going to be a close, hard fought game, and it's going to rely on Landry and Oak dominating the boards and CP3 outplaying Collison. I'd look for a Hornets win but take the points.
Hornets 98, Pacers 94