New Orleans Hornets vs. Phoenix Suns Preview and Pick – 29049

New Orleans Hornets (1-0) at Phoenix Suns -1.5 (1-0) O/U 196 10:30 ET Thursday October 30, 2008 on TNT
By Jason Green of

The Hornets travel to the desert to play the Phoenix Suns tonight in a Western Conference match up. Both teams won their opening games and looked good doing so.

Basketball bookies are listing the Suns as 1.5 point favorites with a total around 196. Phoenix is also posted at around +115 on various Vegas moneylines, with the Hornets getting +250 as road dogs.

The Hornets come into this game after beating Golden State 108-103 in their opening game. The Suns upset San Antonio in their first game 103-98. In their win over Golden State the Hornets high scorer was David West who went for 24 points on 9/17 shooting. Chris Paul had a solid game netting a double-double with 21 points and 11 assists. In their win the Hornets shot 41/82 for a FG% of 50%. In the Suns opening game win the high scorer was Amare Stoudemire who had 22 points on 8/11 shooting. Shaquille O’Neal had a solid game for the Suns with 15 points and 13 boards an d was even 5/8 from the charity stripe. In that game the Suns shot 39-79 for a FG% of 49.4%.

Since the season is just beginning let’s look at some stats from last year to get an idea of these teams, neither of which made many off-season moves. Last season the Hornets were 9th in the league in scoring (100.9 ppg) and 8th in FG% (46.6%). The Suns were the 3rd highest scoring team (110.07 ppg) and ranked 1st in FG% (50%). The Suns were a better defensive team than the Hornets last year in holding their opponents to a lower FG% (46.5% to 46%), but the Hornets were a much better rebounding team than the Suns, as their rebounding differential per game was +1.01 rpg (10th) and the Suns was -2.39 rpg (25th). Both teams shot the 3 well last season (39%), but surprisingly the Suns shot better from the charity stripe than the Hornets last year (78.3% to 76.86%) even with Shaq on the roster for the end of the season.

Last year the Hornets had the 3rd best record in the NBA going 56-26 and were 50-30-2 ATS, while the Suns were 55-27 and 39-40-3 ATS. Last year the Suns were 30-112 at home while the Hornets were 25-16 on the road.

At the end of last season the Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at ranked New Orleans 4th at 96.16 and Phoenix 8th at 94.88 and vs. the top 10 teams in the league the Hornets were 22-20 and the Suns were only 12-21.

On the injury front the Hornets SF Julian Wright is day-to-day and PF Sean Marks is out, while the Suns are fully healthy.

Even though the Suns still have a dynamic offense they are not the run-and-gun team they have been in the past few years. The Suns new head coach, Terry Porter, is a defensive minded coach and he will slow the Suns down this year playing more of a half court game.

Last season may have been the changing of the guard for the best PG in the game, as Chris Paul took over for Steve Nash. Paul has the advantage tonight, as he is quicker and more of a scorer.

The Suns look to get a little payback for last season, as the Suns were 0-4 against the Hornets. The Hornets matched up well against the Suns last year with quicker guard play and a lot of fast break lay-ups, which took a page from the Suns playbook. However, now Shaq is in the desert and if he is back on D and the Hornets go to the hoop he will be waiting for them.

A key match up in this game is the center match up with Shaq and Tyson Chandler of the Hornets. Chandler is not big enough to stop Shaq, who is, and he will need help down low. Shaq will open up the outside for the guards and if Nash and Raja Bell can drain the outside jumper the Suns can win this game.

Nash has to stop Paul from penetrating, as when he does he can score or dish it out to sharpshooters Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic.

Terry Porter’s slow it down game can actually work in the Suns favor, as the Hornets are one of the few teams that can play the run-and-gun offense better than the Suns.

Jason’s Pick: I hate to play favorites but the Suns appear to be the better side here.