Phoenix Suns (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. New Orleans Hornets (4-8 SU, 4-8 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 19, 2009, New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, La. TV: TNT
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Suns -6/Hornets +6
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The Phoenix Suns have been surprisingly one of the best teams in the
NBA season. On the other hand, the New Orleans Hornets have been surprisingly
bad. The Hornets’ fortune got worse when Chris Paul went
down with an injury right after head coach Byron Scott was fired. Will the
Hornets’ fortunes change at all? They will try to do so when they host the
Suns on Thursday night.
The Suns are 10-2 and their only two losses have come to the Lakers and Magic, the two teams that played in the NBA Finals last season. The Suns have scored at least 100 points in every single game this season.
The Suns and Hornets played each other earlier this season on November 11 with the Suns winning the game in Phoenix, 124-104. The Hornets got down 40-29 after the first quarter and 75-56 at halftime, and they could not recover. The Suns shot 55 percent from the field and 13-for-26 from 3-point range. They had eight players in double figures, led by Amare Stoudemire with 21 points. Steve Nash had 12 points and 10 assists. Channing Frye, Goran Dragic and Jared Dudley each hit three 3-pointers. The Suns outrebounded the Hornets, 45-29, but the Suns committed 17 turnovers as compared to 10 for the Hornets. The Hornets were led by Paul’s 25 points. The problem for the Hornets was rebounding. David West and Emeka Okafor combined for only eight rebounds. Derrick Brown led the team with five rebounds.
Stoudemire is leading the Suns with 19.5 points per game. Nash is second with 17.2 per game and leads the team in assists with 11.9 per game. He has been playing like his MVP years thus far, shooting lights out at nearly 45 percent from beyond the arc and dishing out assists in bunches. Without Shaq, the Suns are back to playing the way they used to. Richardson has been a strong addition to the Suns, as he is averaging 16.8 points per game and shooting about 45 percent from beyond the arc. Frye has been a surprise with his emerging 3-point shooting ability. Grant Hill, Leandro Barbosa, Dudley and Dragic have all been solid role players as well.
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With Paul out for a while with an ankle injury, other players have to step up for the Hornets. In the past, it has been a case of letting Paul do everything and seeing what happens. But now, other plays have to emerge and carry this team while Paul is out. Darren Collison, a rookie out of UCLA, took over as the starting point guard. He has scored in double digits in each of the last four games and he has 10 assists in the two games he has started. The ideal strategy would be to get the ball inside to West and Okafor and let them try to carry the load. West is averaging 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game, while Okafor is averaging 10.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. If either of them gets double-teamed, they can kick it out on the perimeter to Peja Stojakovic. But Stojakovic is only averaging 10 points per game and shooting just 33.8 percent from beyond the arc. Stojakovic has to step up and shoot better for the Hornets to win some games. And of course, West and Okafor really have to step up and dominate down low. There aren’t too many NBA teams with two better big men in their starting lineup than West and Okafor. Without Paul, the Hornets are 1-1. They lost 121-98 to the Hawks and defeated the Clippers, 110-102.
Ryno’s Pick: The Suns are one of the best teams in the NBA right now. The Hornets are not very good at all, and now they are without their MVP. They have to figure out how to replace Paul’s production and play much better than they were even with him. Figuring that out against the Suns could be difficult. It’s a given the Suns will score over 100 points, so it’s a matter of how much more than 100 they will score and how much the Hornets will be able to score. Stojakovic will get a lot of open shots against the Suns because of the high tempo style, so he needs to hit some 3-pointers to give the Hornets a boost. The Suns crushed the Hornets last week on the boards, so West and Okafor have to step up and hold their own against Stoudemire and Frye. But there is no reason to believe any of those things will happen for the Hornets, since they haven’t been happening lately. Take the Suns -6.