Pick from Clippers likely No. 10 in lottery

Sunday, April 22, 2012
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com

Barring an unlikely series of events, the 2012 first-round pick New Orleans received from the L.A. Clippers will land in the 10th slot of the May 30 draft lottery. Minnesota (26-38) only has two games remaining on its schedule – including a home game Sunday night vs. Golden State – making it a virtual certainty that the Timberwolves will finish with the 10th-worst record in the NBA.

The only team Minnesota has a mathematical chance to “catch” in the standings is Portland (28-36), while the only squad that can finish tied with Minnesota is Detroit (23-40). In other words, the pick conveyed to the Hornets will fall in the 10th position unless one of these two scenarios takes place:
a) Minnesota wins twice and Portland loses twice, causing a deadlock at No. 10
b) Minnesota loses twice and Detroit wins three times, causing a deadlock at No. 9
The team that collects the 10th slot of the lottery has a 1.1 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick. Those odds increase slightly to a 1.3 percent chance of earning the No. 2 pick, as well as a 1.6 percent chance of garnering the No. 3 pick. Keep in mind, tiebreakers do not apply to the draft lottery. If two teams finish tied in the standings, the percentage odds of the two spots are added together then divided.

In other news with only a handful of days remaining in the regular season:

• Although it seemed like a given that New Orleans’ 66th regular season game at Houston would have major consequences for the Rockets, that’s a long shot now. Due to its recent six-game losing streak, Houston can be eliminated as soon as Sunday night, when it visits Miami. For the Rockets to get to Thursday still alive in the race, they must beat the Heat tonight, then hope Phoenix prevails at Utah on Tuesday (if the Jazz win that game, they are automatically in the playoffs). The Rockets also need Phoenix to lose to San Antonio on Wednesday in Arizona. If all three of those results happen, the Rockets could clinch a playoff berth by defeating the Hornets on Thursday – but they also would need the Jazz to lose to Portland on Thursday.

• The Clippers (39-24) enter Sunday just a half game behind the No. 3 Lakers (40-24) in the Western Conference standings, making their Sunday home game against the Hornets a crucial affair. The Clippers are also just a half game ahead of No. 5 Memphis (39-25), meaning they could still squander homecourt advantage in the first round of the postseason. The Clippers do own the tiebreaking advantage over the Grizzlies, however, meaning if they defeat the Hornets on Sunday, they’ll only need one more win in their final two games to be assured of at least the No. 4 seed. The Clips close the season with road games at Atlanta and New York.

Hornets.com postgame: Clippers 107, Hornets 98

Clippers (40-24), Hornets (20-44)
It was over when... Chris Paul sank two free throws with 27 seconds remaining, finally giving the Clippers some breathing room at 105-98. After an intense, hard-fought game, Los Angeles picked up a much-needed victory, allowing the Clippers to remain in the Pacific Division title race with the Lakers. The Hornets played one of their best quarters of the season in the third, outscoring their hosts 32-17 to go up by 10, but the Clippers responded in a big way. Los Angeles held a 33-14 edge in the fourth quarter, spoiling an excellent and balanced showing by upset-minded New Orleans.

Hornets MVP: When five different players register double-digit scoring and three others tally at least seven points, it's not easy to pick who was most valuable, but let's go with Al-Farouq Aminu. The starting small forward scored 13 of his 14 points after halftime, including a dozen in the third quarter. Sunday's third period was probably the finest span of play as a Hornet for Aminu, who had two dunks, a layup, a three-pointer and a deep two-point jumper, showing off his range of talents. Meanwhile, Eric Gordon scored a team-best 17 points against his former team. NOLA is now 6-3 when Gordon plays this season, with the losses coming against Philadelphia, San Antonio and the Clippers.

Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: No one had an overwhelming game statistically, but Jerome Dyson finished as a plus-8 in plus-minus ratio, while scoring seven points in 18 minutes. Dyson's efficient performance included 2-for-2 shooting, as well as three assists, though he did have three turnovers.

The buzz on... small forward. For the bulk of the season, Trevor Ariza was one of the most consistent players on the roster, frequently playing major minutes and often handling the assignment of guarding the opponent's top wing scorer. Over his two seasons with New Orleans, Ariza's defensive acumen has been one critical - though sometimes overlooked - aspect of the team's above-average play at that end of the floor. With any hope of reaching the playoffs in 2012 having evaporated early in the season, in recent weeks Ariza has been receiving DNP's due to coach's decision, allowing Aminu and Xavier Henry to get more playing time and experience. Aminu was extremely erratic during the first half of the season, often making confounding mistakes on the offensive end, but he has made major strides in recent weeks, capped with another solid game at the Clippers. Henry has been similarly difficult to predict from game to game, but has benefited from his expanded opportunities to play. For a second straight season, he has not displayed a reliable perimeter shot, leading Monty Williams to project that Henry may be more suited for small forward instead of shooting guard. Henry has gotten more aggressive as 2011-12 has progressed, leading to more consistency and fewer ups and downs. Aminu and Henry have both had their third-year options picked up, meaning they'll be under contract in 2012-13. Ariza also has another guaranteed season left on his deal, followed by a player option in 2013-14.