The Hornets (46-35, 18-22 on the road) finish their season off tonight against the Mavs (56-25, 28-12 at home). This game could be the warm up for a playoff series between these two teams. The exact playoff ramifications of tonight's games are way to long and detailed to break down here (but you can find a nice recap here), but suffice to say there's a decent chance the two teams will match up if the Mavs win tonight and the Lakers lose.
Many fans might root for the Hornets to "tank" tonight's game in an attempt to avoid facing the Lakers (I know Bynum's injured, but I still think we match up better with the Spurs / Mavs). While I can see the logic behind that, do you really want to enter the playoffs on a three game losing streak? And not just a normal three game losing streak, but a streak started with two blow out home losses followed up by a game where we intentionally play poorly to lose? That doesn't sound like a recipe for a team to make noise in the playoffs, and I'd rather the Hornets play hard tonight, pull off a big win, and ride some momentum into the playoffs then continue the funk they've been in.
The Hornets and Mavs have already met three times this season with the Bees winning two (despite missing CP3 in the last matchup). The total margin of difference in these three meetings? Six points. These games have been CLOSE and hard fought. Let's hope that trend continues tonight.
Chris Paul and Jarrett Jack vs Jason Kidd and Beaubois
Jason Kidd was the Hornet's MVP in the last matchup. With CP3 out, Kidd made up by allowing JJ to score 21 points (8 of 19 shooting) and 7 assists. Even better, Kidd was the only person who could stop the Mavs attack- Mavs not named Jason Kidd shot 50% against the normally fierce Hornets defense, while Jason Kidd contributed an ugly 0 for 7 shooting performance. With CP3 back, look for the two Hornets guard to consistently abuse Jason Kidd in driving to the rim for open looks. Kidd has played two games since recovering from a hamstring industry, and both of them have been pretty ugly. If the Hornets want to win tonight, they need to take advantage of this position!
Carl Landry vs Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk has been unstoppable against the Hornets this year, scoring 80 points on a combined 28 for 49 shooting. However, two of his rare misses have come on last second potential game winners. Landry was very good in the one game he played as a Bee against the Mavs, scoring 15 points on 7 of 9 shooting before fouling out. Nowitzki is listed as having a 3 inch height advantage over Landry, but I personally think it might be a bit more. This height difference means Landry might have trouble interrupting Dirk's shot.
The Mavs are 9.5 point favorites. It's tougher than normal to predict this game, given either team could pull all of their starters at any point. ASSUMING everyone plays (and tries), it seems odd Vegas would make the Mavs such overwhelming favorites in a series that has traditionally been so tight unless they forsee the Hornets completely tanking. I don't, and even if they did, 9.5 points is a lot to give up! I'll take the points, but take the Mavs to win a squeker.
Mavs 96, Hornets 91