Two games in a row now Chris Paul has not played up to par, in fact neither has the team bar maybe David West. The Hornets suffered a detrimental loss at the hands of the Clippers yesterday and now face a Jazz team that has been playing very well in the early part of the season. Most teams now have marked New Orleans on their calendars so you can expect Utah to be bringing it. For a number of years now Deron Williams’ teams have had Chris Paul’s teams number and have beaten them time and time again. This is probably the first instance where both teams have the talent necessary for us to call it a “fair battle.”
However the Jazz are still extremely talented and when playing at home are one of the top 4 teams in the Western Conference. Not only that but they are deep. With that let’s have a look at what today brings us in terms of matchups for the Hornets and the Jazz.
Point Guard: Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams
This is a marquee matchup in the NBA today, the top two point guards in the league going at it. Most Jazz fans are adamant that Deron Williams is the best point guard in the league. That’s all well and good for them but not only is Chris Paul putting up better numbers (Wins Per Share, PER etc.) but the way he plays the game is just so amazing to watch. However recently Paul has taken a severe step back. It now seems he’s increasingly reluctant to dribble into the paint, draw contact or even just get closer to the basket to draw attention. If we had played the Jazz 5 games ago I would have given the clear advantage to the Hornets, now I’m not so sure.
Shooting Guard: Marco Belinelli vs. Raja Bell
When you think about it both these teams are structured very similarly and the shooting guard position just goes to show these similarities. Belinelli and Bell are both terrific outside shooters, can get to the basket and are average passers as well. Again though more recent history indicates that Belinelli isn’t playing all that well but neither is Bell so…
Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Andrei Kirilenko
Both Ariza and Kirilenko are stout NBA defenders, they have length, know the proper technique and can make plays to shut down opposing players. While Trevor Ariza has meant a lot to the Hornets Andrei Kirilenko has been ballin’. At current he’s averaging 12.5 points per game and is shooting a career high 47% from three.
Power Forward: David West vs. Paul Millsap
These guys have both been beasts in recent games. David West dropping 30 in a loss to the Clippers, 30 in a win against the Cavs, but so has Millsap. Remember how the Jazz beat the Heat? Oh yeah that was Paul Millsap, enough said really as he put up 46 against them, wow.
Center: Emeka Okafor vs. Al Jefferson
Many criticized Al Jefferson because of his transition into the Sloan offense, but with Deron Williams as your point guard it doesn’t really matter because he’ll find a way to make things work. Al is more offensively gifted than Emeka Okafor but both need to give some love to their point guards because a lot of their points are due to them.
New Orleans is going through a bit of a transition period with their bench. The Jarrett Jack trade was great and all but it means that it’ll take a bit of time for the bench to get in sync with each other. The Jazz meanwhile have a stout second unit with youth and firepower their calling card. With the Hornets still trying to find their “groove” I have to give this one to Utah.
Overall it should be a fun and entertaining game, more so for Utah fans. I think New Orleans received a huge “heat check” and now have to realize that on any given night a team can upset you. I really hope that the Hornets can get back to their winning ways, but I don’t see it happening for another four games. It may seem like I’m painting a bleak picture but to be honest the Hornets always give it their best and have only faced a deficit of 10+ once this year. I still expect to see Utah pull out the win but probably not by as much as you think.
Credit to KidWardle