Hornets (12-3), Trail Blazers (8-7)
It was over when
Marco Belinelli drilled a three-pointer from the right corner, giving New Orleans an 88-75 lead with 3:20 left in the game. The victory allowed the Hornets to finish their four-game trip at 2-2 and end a brief two-game skein against the Clippers and Jazz.
Hornets MVP: With five players tallying 14 points or more, there were several candidates, but lets go with Trevor Ariza. The 6-foot-8 small forward was excellent on the defensive end, while also compiling one of his best offensive games as a Hornet. He finished with a season-high 18 points, including a much-needed 14 in the first half after New Orleans had fallen behind quickly against hot-shooting Portland.
Hornets Sixth Man of the Game: Given the opponent and the situation, this was Willie Greens most valuable performance of the season. Green was a clutch shot-maker all game, netting 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting. He equaled his season-high in scoring, but some of the 19 points he had against the Clippers earlier this month came after the outcome was virtually decided. Green was also part of New Orleans defensive effectiveness. The Hornets were fairly solid defensively all game, but early on Portland made numerous difficult, contested jumpers. They came out and hit shots, Green said of the Blazers 33-point first quarter. We were right in their faces. We wanted to keep the same defense (the rest of the game) and keep the pressure up.
The buzz on
road success. New Orleans improved to 5-3 on the road with Fridays victory at Portland's Rose Garden, a tough venue for visiting teams to prevail. By comparison, the Hornets did not pick up their fifth road triumph in 2009-10 until Jan. 10, when they beat Washington to go to 5-13 away from Louisiana. You cant say that the Hornets are a better road team this season due to experience - because they were actually older at several positions a year ago. Like with so many things for this team, the best explanation for their newfound road effectiveness comes back to defense. New Orleans has held two opponents (Milwaukee, Sacramento) to fewer than 80 points in their own building, no small feat in a league where teams generally play much better offense at home.
Blog question of the night: With San Antonios 12-game winning streak coming to an end Friday, the Spurs dropped to 13-2, setting up a Southwest Division game to watch Sunday afternoon in New Orleans. The Hornets are just one game behind the Spurs and have a chance to take a 2-0 lead in the season series, having prevailed 99-90 in San Antonio on Oct. 30. What do you see as the biggest keys to the Hornets coming up with what would be a tremendous early-season win on Sunday?