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HORNETS VS. ROCKETS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
April 6, 2011

After having to sort through various scenarios in recent days to determine how the Hornets can clinch a playoff berth, the consequences of Wednesdays home game vs. the Rockets are extraordinarily easy to understand. If the Hornets (44-33) prevail in this Southwest Division matchup, they will guarantee themselves a trip to the NBA postseason.

However, if the Rockets (41-36 entering a Tuesday home game vs. the Kings) post a victory in the Hive, both teams will head into the weekend of April 8-10 still uncertain of their fate. If New Orleans drops Wednesdays game to Houston, it still can ensure a playoff appearance by winning two of its final four games, but the Hornets obviously would greatly prefer to end all doubt by defeating the Rockets.

New Orleans holds a 2-1 advantage in the season series vs. Houston, winning on the Rockets home floor twice during the first half of the season. On Nov. 3, the Hornets secured a 107-99 victory, part of the franchise-record 8-0 start to the regular season. On Jan. 14, NOLA rallied during the second half to force overtime and eventually win by a 110-105 margin. Houston turned the tables in New Orleans on Feb. 27, coming from behind after intermission en route to a 91-89 verdict.

The Rockets have been one of the NBAs hottest teams since the All-Star break, going from nearly out of contention to a club that has threatened to overtake the likes of New Orleans and Memphis in the standings. Houston was just 26-31 in mid-February, but went 15-5 in its first 20 games following the midseason hiatus.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Power forward, Carl Landry vs. Luis Scola
A member of the Rockets for 2 1/2 seasons, Landry is one of three former Houston players now on the New Orleans roster (the others are Trevor Ariza and David Andersen). Landry was Scolas backup during the first half of last season, but has shown he can be very productive when given significant playing time. Through Landrys five starts following David Wests season-ending injury, the Purdue product was leading the Hornets in scoring average at 20.2 points per game.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the Houston Rockets:


Kyle Lowry


Chase Budinger

GUARDS
Prolific scorer Kevin Martin was acquired by Houston in a three-team trade last season from Sacramento, partly in exchange for Carl Landry, who was later dealt by the Kings to the Hornets this season. Martin is Houstons No. 1 offensive threat and burned the Hornets in a big way during the Rockets come-from-behind victory in New Orleans on Feb. 27. Martin poured in a game-high 33 points, sparking the visitors to a 51-34 edge in the second half. The unorthodox shooter went 13-for-13 from the foul line and 4-for-8 from three-point range, enabling him to put up the 33 points despite only taking 15 shots from the field.

Point guard Kyle Lowry is one of the most prominent candidates for the NBAs 2010-11 Most Improved Player award. After primarily coming off the bench previously while with Memphis and Houston, following previous starter Aaron Brooks ankle injury, Lowry took full advantage on his increased chance to play. The Rockets eventually opted to trade Brooks to the Phoenix Suns in February, cementing Lowry as the permanent first-stringer. The sturdy 6-foot, 205-pounder is an above-average shooter and defender.

Goran Dragic is Lowrys backup at point guard. Dragic established himself as a quality reserve last season while helping spark Phoenixs bench during the Suns surprising run to the 2010 Western Conference finals.

After serving as a rookie starter at shooting guard for the Orlando Magics 2009 Eastern Conference championship team, Courtney Lee has now been on three different teams in three seasons. The accurate shooter competed against the University of New Orleans in the Sun Belt Conference during college, starring for Western Kentucky.

Terrence Williams has seen very limited action in his second NBA season. While with New Jersey as a rookie, Williams had a 14-point, 14-assist game against New Orleans.

FORWARDS
Argentina native Luis Scola is Houstons second-best offensive threat, relying frequently on crafty moves around the basket. Scola has uncharacteristically struggled against the Hornets in three games this season, averaging just 9.7 points. Hes made 11 of his 40 field-goal attempts vs. New Orleans, a shooting percentage of just 27.5.

Chase Budinger was promoted to the starting job at small forward following the trade of Rockets stalwart defender Shane Battier. The athletic and accurate-shooting Budinger had a 15-point game against the Hornets in the Nov. 3 matchup in Houston.

Patrick Patterson was one of five University of Kentucky players who were chosen in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft (the others were Washingtons John Wall, Sacramentos DeMarcus Cousins, the Clippers Eric Bledsoe and Orlandos Daniel Orton). Patterson did not make his official NBA debut until December and has spent some time in the D-League, but has carved out a larger role recently. He had five double-digit scoring games in March.

Jordan Hill was New Yorks first-round pick in 2009, but was traded to Houston midway through his rookie season. The University of Arizona product grabbed nine rebounds vs. the Hornets on Nov. 3.

DeMarre Carroll has made a handful of brief appearances since coming to Houston in a February trade from Memphis.

CENTERS
At 6-foot-6, 238 pounds, starting center Chuck Hayes faces a height disadvantage at his position every night he takes the floor. Still, the six-year NBA veteran uses his strength and timing to frequently hold his own in the paint. Hayes is arguably one of the leagues most underrated players, having been forced into significant duty partly as a result of Yao Mings persistent injury problems. In Houstons 91-89 victory over New Orleans on Feb. 27, Hayes grabbed 11 rebounds in 41 minutes of playing time.

Brad Millers 13th season in the NBA has been periodically interrupted by a knee injury. The skilled passer and shooter was out of the lineup during a portion of March due to knee soreness, but returned for a March 30 road victory at New Jersey. The 7-footer has played in only one of the three Houston-NOLA games this season.

Like the Hornets Emeka Okafor, Hasheem Thabeet was a No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft after playing in college at UConn. Thabeet has developed slowly since debuting with the Grizzlies in 2009-10 and was traded to the Rockets in February.


Players the HOU/NOH want shooting free throws in a close game
ROCKETS HORNETS
Kevin Martin
Courtney Lee
Chase Budinger
Brad Miller
Kyle Lowry
86.4
82.6
81.8
80.4
76.7
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Marco Belinelli
Carl Landry
Willie Green
85.5
85.0
80.4
77.1
75.3
If the HOU/NOH need a three-pointer, their best options are
ROCKETS HORNETS
Courtney Lee
Kevin Martin
Goran Dragic
Chase Budinger
Kyle Lowry
38.4
38.2
37.1
35.2
31.7
Marco Belinelli
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Quincy Pondexter
Willie Green
40.1
36.0
34.9
34.8
31.7
Career FT percentage (through March 31) Career three-point percentage (through March 31)




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