Hornets vs. Jazz Scouting Report 04/11/11

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
April 11, 2011

In the final home game of the 2010-11 regular season for New Orleans, the Hornets host the Utah Jazz. It’s the Hornets’ FANtastic FANale, the team’s traditional fan appreciation night.

After locking up a playoff berth by defeating Houston on Wednesday, the Hornets are now focused on attaining the highest possible seed in the Western Conference. They are currently locked in a tight race for seeds 6 through 8 with the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies. Fortunately for the Hornets, they’ve already clinched the tiebreaker with both of those clubs. Portland (47-33) leads New Orleans (46-34) and Memphis (46-34).

NOLA has enjoyed very little success in recent years against Utah, but the Jazz have experienced a difficult 2010-11, including the resignation of longtime head coach Jerry Sloan, the trade of All-Star point guard Deron Williams and a lengthy list of key injuries. As a result, Utah will finish below .500 and miss the NBA postseason for the first time since 2006.

The Hornets hold a 2-1 head-to-head advantage over the Jazz entering Monday’s game. The most recent Hornets-Jazz meeting, on March 24, was one of the most entertaining games of the 2010-11 NBA season, with NOLA eventually pulling out a 121-117 overtime victory. Trailing by two points with less than two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the Hornets forced extra time on Emeka Okafor’s improbable 20-foot prayer just before the buzzer.

During Utah’s first visit to the Big Easy on Dec. 17, the home team secured one of their most one-sided victories of the season, a 100-71 final. The Jazz’s triumph over the Hornets was a 105-87 tally on the night before Thanksgiving in Salt Lake City.


Power forward, Carl Landry vs. Paul Millsap

During the March 24 game between the Hornets and Jazz, Millsap compiled one of the best games of his NBA career. The Louisiana native racked up 33 points and 11 rebounds, keeping Utah in the hunt before it lost in OT. Landry had a minimal impact that night with just three points in 14 minutes of playing time, but late in the fourth quarter David West sustained his season-ending knee injury. Landry has been NOLA’s starting power forward and its leading scorer since then.

A closer look at the Utah Jazz:

Devin Harris

Al Jefferson

When Utah surprisingly traded All-Star and longtime Hornets nemesis Deron Williams to New Jersey in February, the Jazz acquired Devin Harris, hopeful that Harris could take over for Williams at point guard. Harris, who began his NBA career with the Dallas Mavericks, blossomed into an All-Star caliber player while he was with New Jersey but has battled injuries since joining Utah. Harris re-aggravated a hamstring problem during the Jazz’s March 21 game and had been out of the lineup before returning for two recent games.

With Harris unavailable, 10-year veteran Earl Watson was pressed into a starting role. The UCLA product had one of his better games of the season March 24 vs. New Orleans, finishing with 14 points and eight assists.

Like Harris, third point guard Ronnie Price has missed recent games due to injury. Price was a late-blooming NBA prospect who played his college ball at Utah Valley University. The 6-foot-2 combo guard is an impressive leaper, capable of highlight-reel dunks.

Raja Bell has been the Jazz’s starting shooting guard for the bulk of the season. Bell sustained a foot injury recently and has missed time due to the ailment.

Power forward Paul Millsap was born in Monroe, La., and graduated from Grambling High School. He later was one of the nation’s premier rebounders while in college at Louisiana Tech. Millsap became the first player in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding for three consecutive years. After his standout three-year career, Millsap was a second-round pick of Utah in 2006. That selection has paid off handsomely for the Jazz, who’ve seen the burly 6-foot-8, 250-pounder steadily improve and develop into one of the league’s better interior players. The fifth-year pro scored a career-high 46 points at Miami early in the season.

With several teammates out of the mix due to injuries, C.J. Miles has increased his production significantly in recent weeks. The smooth-shooting left-hander piled up a career-high 40 points vs. Minnesota on March 16.

Many around the NBA believe Derrick Favors has the potential to eventually become of the NBA’s top power forwards. The rookie from Georgia Tech arrived in Utah as a key piece in the Deron Williams trade with New Jersey.

Andrei Kirilenko has been the Jazz’s starting small forward for much of the season, but the 10-year NBA veteran – all with Utah – has been nursing a knee injury and was forced to miss games.

Rookie small forward Gordon Hayward led Butler to the first of its two straight NCAA title-game appearances in 2010. Hayward didn’t play a lot early in the season, but has been excellent in several games lately, including a surprising road victory at the Lakers on Tuesday.

Rookie power forward Jeremy Evans played in the Sun Belt Conference against the University of New Orleans while with Western Kentucky. Evans’ minutes have increased in recent weeks.

A native of Mississippi, Al Jefferson has often been called one of the NBA’s most underrated players, partly because he’s spent the majority of his seven-year career toiling in obscurity with bad teams. As a past member of the Boston Celtics and Minnesota Timberwolves, Jefferson has only been to the NBA postseason once. The 6-foot-10, 280-pound pivotman was born in Monticello, Miss. During a stellar basketball career for Prentiss (Miss.) High, Jefferson earned a college scholarship to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks, but he instead opted to enter the NBA draft in 2004.

Ukrainian backup Kyrylo Fesenko has seen minimal action in his fourth NBA season, but recently made his first start of 2010-11.

Francisco Elson is a 7-footer who’s more comfortable playing away from the basket on offense. The eight-year NBA veteran spent parts of two seasons with New Orleans division rival San Antonio.

Players the UTA/NOH want shooting free throws in a close game…
Devin Harris
Raja Bell
C.J. Miles
Andrei Kirilenko
Ronnie Price
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
David West
Marco Belinelli
Carl Landry
If the UTA/NOH need a three-pointer, their best options are…
Gordon Hayward
Raja Bell
C.J. Miles
Earl Watson
Andrei Kirilenko
Marco Belinelli
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Quincy Pondexter
Willie Green
Career FT percentage (through April 10) Career three-point percentage (through April 10)

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