Utah Jazz (51-26), +4.5, o/u 210, vs. New Orleans Hornets (54-22), -4.5, o/u 210 New Orleans Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana, 8 p.m. Eastern, Tuesday
by Oracle of Predictem.com
For those who thought the New Orleans Hornets would fade sometime during the 2007-08 season, they got the complete opposite.
The Hornets are still holding on to the No. 1 spot in the ultra-tough Western Conference playoff standings with just six games left on the docket, and if head coach Byron Scott isn’t the NBA’s Coach of the Year, the award might be rigged.
New Orleans is 1 games ahead of the pesky San Antonio Spurs not only in the Western Conference playoff race, but in the Southwest Division as well.
The Hornets, who clinched their first playoff birth since 2004 in a 118-110 win over the Knicks on Saturday, will host the Utah Jazz on Tuesday at New Orleans Arena on Tuesday where they are 29-10 on the year.
The Jazz aren’t too far behind the Hornets in the conference standings at 3 games back. But with just five games remaining for Utah, their chances of garnering the top spot is on life support. Already having clinched a playoff spot as well, simply put, if they lose, they won’t be catching New Orleans.
Utah owns the season series to date, beating New Orleans two out of three match ups. They actually manhandled the Hornets in their first two meetings, 99-71 and 110-88. However, both of those games were in Salt Lake City. The third contest was played at New Orleans Arena where the Hornets won 110-98.
Chris Paul had a good showing in that win, scoring 24 points and dishing out 16 assists. Fellow All-Star teammate David West scored 25 and grabbed 13 boards during that meeting in late February as well.
Both teams come into this game hot, as Utah has won six out of their last seven games and New Orleans dominating their opponents in winning 10 of 11.
CP3 has done his best down the stretch to try to pass the names of Kobe Bryant and LeBron James in the MVP race. Paul recorded his fourth career triple-double on Sunday night against Golden State (16 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds) and helped his team to a franchise-record 54th win.
Although Paul sliced up the Jazz in their lone win against them, he struggled by combining for 21 points and 12 assists in their two losses. Part of that could have been the fact that he was going up against Deron Williams and the physical defense of the Jazz. The other part is that Utah is nearly unbeatable at home, sporting the NBA’s best record at 35-4.
The fact that this game will be played in New Orleans is why the Hornets come in as favorites -4 with an over/under of 210.
The mark of 210 is interesting only because the two teams haven’t hit that total in any of their three head-to-head meetings this year.
Utah’s offense is one of the best in the NBA, though, as they average 106.9 points per game – 5th in the league – as well as shoot nearly 50% from the floor, which is 2nd.
As much as New Orleans is known for putting the ball in the hole, their defense is underrated. They give up just 95.6 points per game, which is 5th in the NBA. They are also a dynamic perimeter defensive team with the help of CP3, who leads the NBA in steals (2.7).
The under has been a huge trend as its 7-1-1 when Utah goes up against a team in the Southwest Division. Meanwhile, the under is 4-0 for New Orleans in their last four games against teams in the Western Conference.
The Hornets have the second best record ATS in the entire league, just behind the Celtics, at 47-27-2. They dominate the spread at home, too, going 25-14.
When New Orleans is small favorites (.5 to 4.5 points), they have covered as of late, going 4-0-1 in their last five.
However, Utah is a team that is well rested. The Jazz haven’t played since Friday in a dominating performance against San Antonio. When Utah has three or more days rest, they have a nice trend of 7-0 ATS. They’ve also covered five of their last six games overall.
Both teams have more than enough on the line in this contest. Could be an instant classic.
Oracle’s Pick: Look for a tough, physical game. Utah won’t give anything easy to Paul and the Hornets. Take the points here in what should be a tight game throughout!