Tonight the Hornets (44-33, 26-12 at home) take on the Rockets (41-37, 17-22 on the road). As Ed Harkin would say, this is a big one. A win tonight clinches the Hornets a playoff spot and allows them to be "strategic" with the use of their starters in their last four games. The Rockets have been one of the hottest teams in the league since the all star break, having gone (by my count) 15-6 since the break. Despite the record, the Rockets will basically eliminated with a loss tonight. The Rockets are playing the second night of a back to back, and after suffering a disappointing loss to the Kings last night, they may be a bit disheartened tonight.
The two teams have already met three times this year (Hornets lead series 2-1), with the Hornets winning the first two meetings and won the first half of the third meeting... unfortunately, the Rockets outscored the Hornets by 17 points in the second half of the last meeting to win that game.
Carl Landry vs Luis Scola
Scola is a sneaky efficient scorer, but DWest always seemed to bring his A game and shut the Rockets forward down. For example, in the last meeting between the two teams, DWest held Scola to 6 points and 6 rebounds on 3 of 13 shooting while scoring 22 points (9 of 14 shooting) and adding 9 boards and 5 assists. Landry has been very effective in taking over for West, averaging over 20 points and 6 rebounds per game in the five games since West's injury. However, Landry has been something of a defensive liability, and needs to shut Scola down so the rest of the team can focus on stopping the Rockets shooters.
All of the Hornets wings vs Kevin Martin
The Rockets DESTROYED the Hornets from deep in the last meeting, and Kevin Martin has been the reason why (well, him and Kyle Lowry, who we'll get to in a second). He had 33 points on 8 of 15 shooting (4 of 8 from 3) in that game, and that it probably could have been worse. The Hornets CANNOT win when someone goes off on them like that and need to do a better job of jumping out on Martin and not letting him get to the line. Martin's been hot lately, averaging over 27 points in his past five, so that could be easier said than done.
Chris Paul vs Kyle Lowry
I don't know why, but Lowry has played really, really well against CP3 so far this season. He's averaging almost 19 points on 50% shooting in the three games against the Hornets so far, and he didn't even start one of those games! He also did a nice job shuting CP3 down in the last meeting, holding him to 6 points on 2 of 12 shooting (though CP3 did have 12 assists). Quite frankly, w/ DWest out, the Hornets can't win unless CP dominates his opposition, so let's hope that trend changes tonight.
The Hornets are 3.5 point favorites. I was all set to say Vegas got this one wrong... but then I read this article talking about fan attendance.It got me thinking- the Hive will be buzzing tonight, the Rockets are on the second night of a back to back ( back to back = tired legs), and the Hornets extra day off will give them an extra bounce. The Hornets lock down Kevin Martin and lock up a playoff spot tonight.
Hornets 97, Rockets 91