March 21, 2012

With just 10 home games remaining in the 2011-12 regular season, the New Orleans Hornets open up a three-game homestand by taking on the Golden State Warriors in the Hive. Wednesdays matchup precedes a Thursday game against the Los Angeles Clippers, followed by Saturdays Southwest Division affair with the San Antonio Spurs.

New Orleans (11-34) will try to end a four-game losing streak on its home floor, having dropped March games here to Indiana, Charlotte, the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington. The Hornets most recent victory in the New Orleans Arena was March 2 vs. Dallas.

In a scheduling oddity, this is the first meeting of the season between the Hornets and Warriors, but they will square off a total of three times over the course of the next five weeks. Although Wednesdays game marks Golden States only visit to New Orleans in 2011-12, the Warriors will host the Hornets twice. New Orleans will face Golden State in Oakland on March 28, followed by an April 24 game. The April 24 matchup is the second-to-last game of 2011-12 for the Hornets, who will wrap up their 66-game schedule April 26 in Houston.

During this three-game NOLA homestand, as well as over the balance of the regular season, the Hornets will have the opportunity to play the role of spoiler. A defeat by the Warriors on Wednesday would be a considerable blow to their hopes of reaching the Western Conference playoffs for the first time since 2007. In addition, every Hornets opponent for the remainder of this month is in the postseason hunt, as well as the first five April foes.

Intriguing matchup: Small forward, Trevor Ariza vs. Dorell Wright
Two 26-year-old natives of the Los Angeles area who start at the same position get reacquainted in New Orleans. Ariza has been a steadying presence for the Hornets all season, a player who frequently draws challenging defensive assignments. On Wednesday, Ariza will focus partly on trying to prevent Wright from getting hot from the three-point arc, where Wright excelled during his breakthrough season of 2010-11. With the Hornets often struggling to generate enough offense to win games, they also ask Ariza to produce at the other end. Ariza is NOLAs third-leading active scorer behind Jarrett Jack and Chris Kaman.


In a quest to return to the playoffs for the first time in five years, Golden State appeared to be a longshot for the postseason early in 2011-12, when the Warriors dropped eight of their first 11 games. However, theyve played noticeably better over the past few weeks, moving to within four games of eighth place in the Western Conference entering Monday. The Warriors are on pace for their best season since 2007-08, the last time they finished with a winning record at 48-34. In the three full seasons since then, theyve gone 29-53, 26-56 and 36-46. Their memorable 07 playoff run, which culminated with a trip to the West semifinals, was the only time in the last 17 years that they qualified for the postseason.

What's new
During a recent trade-deadline week that included numerous noteworthy deals but few blockbuster transactions, the Warriors made a major move by trading longtime star player Monta Ellis, a native of Mississippi. Golden State also dealt 2010 lottery pick Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown to Milwaukee, in exchange for center Andrew Bogut. In a separate but related trade with San Antonio, Golden State obtained small forward Richard Jefferson, an 11-year veteran. Bogut could make a significant impact long-term for a team that has long sought an interior presence, but hes currently sidelined due to a fractured ankle. Jefferson provides scoring punch from the wing and a vast amount of playoff experience.

Warriors star
Many NBA analysts believe that the only thing that prevented power forward David Lee from being named an All-Star this season was the Warriors below-.500 record. The 6-foot-9, 240-pounder has steadily improved throughout his career, developing into a consistent scorer and rebounder for the Warriors. With previous team leading scorer Ellis traded to Milwaukee and point guard Stephen Currys status constantly in flux due to injuries, Lee has assumed the role of being Golden States No. 1 offensive threat. The University of Florida product uses his above-average athleticism to outquick fellow bigs, but also has become a more accurate mid-range shooter.

Warrior on the rise
The son of former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick Mychal Thompson, Golden State rookie Klay Thompsons promising play this season made it easier for the Warriors to trade Ellis, who plays the same position. The 22-year-old from Washington State is a deadeye perimeter shooter, at around 44 percent from three-point range. In a March 14 two-point defeat vs. Boston, Thompson nearly led Golden State to a victory, pouring in a career-best 26 points, including three three-pointers.

On the sideline
Warriors head coach Mark Jackson is in what could be described as the third phase of whats been an ultra-successful basketball career. As an NBA point guard from 1987-2004, Jackson was one of the leagues premier pass-first floor generals. He finished his playing career with 10,334 assists, ranking him third all time. He also was the Rookie of the Year in 1987-88 with New York and helped lead Indiana to a berth in the 2000 NBA Finals, still the Pacers only trip to that round. In Part 2 of his hoops life, Jackson was a successful broadcaster who analyzed games nationally for ESPN. Now in his first-ever season as a coach, Jackson has been tasked with improving the Warriors defensively, an area where they have historically faltered. A playoff berth for Golden State would mean Jackson has done one of the best coaching jobs in the league.

Did you know?
The Warriors moved to California in 1962-63, the season after Wilt Chamberlain scored an NBA-record 100 points in a single game (as a member of the Philadelphia Warriors). At the time, there was only one other NBA franchise located in California. Now there are four, with the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings joining the Los Angeles Lakers, who migrated to the Golden State in 1958.

Players the Warriors want shooting free throws in a close game... If the Warriors need a three-pointer, three of their best options are...
Name Career FT percentage (through March 18)
Persistent ankle injuries have shuffled him in and out of lineup.
Third on Warriors in attempts, behind Lee and Robinson.
Spent first four-plus NBA seasons with New York.
Name Career three-point percentage (through March 18)
Playing time has increased significantly in recent games.
His father, Dell Curry, is Hornets all-time leading scorer.
Shooting blistering 46.0 percent this season.

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