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HORNETS VS. SPURS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
January 22, 2011

While much of the NBA and the national media focuses on the Miami Heats Big Three, the relative recent struggles of the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers and the ongoing saga surrounding Carmelo Anthonys status, the San Antonio Spurs have quietly been the leagues best team in 2010-11.

Through 41 games, the exact halfway mark of the 82-game regular season, the Spurs were 35-6, on pace to register 70 victories. Only one team in the history of the NBA has ever accomplished that feat over the course of the entire schedule: the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, who went 72-10 in 1995-96.

Headlined by a consistently outstanding trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, along with a valuable cast of stellar role players who always seem to provide the Spurs with exactly what the team needs, San Antonio has already built a significant lead in the Southwest Division over the Mavericks, Hornets, Grizzlies and Rockets.

Along the way, the Spurs raced to a 13-1 start, with their only defeat during that stretch coming against the Hornets on Oct. 30. New Orleans posted arguably its most impressive victory of the season by holding off San Antonio by a 99-90 margin in Texas. However, the Spurs answered with two consecutive triumphs against the Hornets, including 109-95 here in the Big Easy on Nov. 28. A week later, San Antonio posted a resounding 109-84 home victory, to grab a 2-1 season-series advantage over NOLA. Saturdays game is the final meeting of four contests between the division rivals.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Power forward, David West vs. Tim Duncan
West actually grew up a San Antonio fan and lists legendary Spurs Hall of Fame center David Robinson as a player he idolized as a youth. Now West faces the Spurs four times each regular season, often matching up against a future Hall of Fame shoo-in, the 34-year-old Duncan. West has compiled some of the finest games of his career against San Antonio, most notably scoring 38 points in Game 5 of the 2008 conference semifinals. New Orleans has done a commendable job against Duncan over three meetings this season, with the Wake Forest product averaging 13.0 points and 7.7 rebounds, on just 13-for-31 shooting from the field.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the San Antonio Spurs:


Tony Parker


DeJuan Blair

GUARDS
In three games against New Orleans this season, point guard Tony Parker has been relatively quiet by his productive standards, averaging just 12.7 points and 6.7 assists. Overall, hes averaging about 17 points per game in 2010-11. The Hornets have done a respectable job so far of keeping the fleet-footed native of France out of the lane, where he thrives on floaters and crafty layups.

Shooting guard Manu Ginobili has been a constant thorn in the sides of the Hornets since NOLA joined the Southwest Division prior to the 2004-05 season. As the Hornets top wing defender, small forward Trevor Ariza will occasionally draw the assignment of trying to slow down the dynamic southpaw, a native of Argentina.

A 26-year-old rookie, shooting guard Gary Neal has produced some of his best games this season against the Hornets. Neal enters Saturdays season-series finale connecting on 50 percent of his three-pointers vs. New Orleans, going 2-for-4 in each of the three matchups.

George Hill is another Spurs reserve whos compiled multiple effective performances vs. NOLA so far in 2010-11. Despite coming off the bench in all three games, hes averaged 24 minutes.

Much of scrappy third-string point guard Chris Quinns playing time vs. New Orleans this season came after the Spurs had built commanding second-half leads.

FORWARDS
Perennial All-Star power forward Tim Duncan hasnt played more than 28 minutes in any of the three New Orleans games this season, partly due to San Antonios domination during portions of the latter two. Through the Spurs first 41 games, the seven points Duncan tallied against the Hornets on Oct. 30 was his fourth-lowest single-game output of 2010-11.

Richard Jefferson struggled to get comfortable in his role as a new member of the Spurs last season, but in Year 2 he has excelled. Jefferson has produced 13, 18 and 19 points in the three head-to-head matchups this season against the Hornets.

After making a limited impact in the first two games vs. New Orleans, Matt Bonner torched the nets on Dec. 5 for 14 points on only six total shot attempts. Bonner was 4-for-5 from three-point range in the Spurs 25-point victory.

Longtime NBA veteran Antonio McDyess role has fluctuated somewhat throughout the season, but it appears to have stabilized recently, with him consistently playing double-digit minutes. McDyess made a decent impact in the initial two games against NOLA.

Rookie James Anderson, a first-round pick from Oklahoma State, has missed two-plus months of action due to injury. Anderson played 11 minutes in the Oct. 30 game vs. NOLA, but suffered a broken foot two weeks later.

CENTERS
Energetic second-year pro DeJuan Blair has played wildly varying roles in the previous games against the Hornets. The University of Pittsburgh product logged 38 minutes in the Oct. 30 meeting, but only seven on Nov. 28. Blair has had games of 11 and eight rebounds vs. NOLA.

Tiago Splitter has averaged 5.0 points and 2.5 rebounds over two games facing the Hornets. He received a DNP-coachs decision in the first encounter.


Players the Spurs/Hornets want shooting free throws in a close game
SPURS HORNETS
Gary Neal
Manu Ginobili
George Hill
Richard Jefferson
Tony Parker
85.7
83.1
79.8
77.6
73.1
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
David West
Marcus Thornton
Marco Belinelii
85.3
85.0
84.0
81.0
80.6
If the Spurs/Hornets need a three-pointer, their best options are
SPURS HORNETS
Matt Bonner
Gary Neal
Chris Quinn
George Hill
Manu Ginobili
41.5
39.6
38.8
38.0
37.5
Marco Belinelli
Marcus Thornton
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Willie Green
39.0
36.7
36.3
34.9
31.5




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