Hornets vs. Rockets Scouting Report 02/27/11

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
February 27, 2011

With less than two months remaining in the 2010-11 regular season, the Hornets continue to jockey for playoff position in the Western Conference, facing the Rockets in a Southwest Division matchup on Sunday night. Since divisional record is one of the tiebreakers that factor into postseason seeding and which teams qualify for the playoffs, Sunday’s game against Houston takes on added significance.

New Orleans has compiled an excellent record so far against Southwest Division foes at 6-3, including a pair of road victories in Houston. During the Hornets’ franchise-record 8-0 start, they earned their fourth victory by prevailing on the Rockets’ home floor, 107-99. On Jan. 14 in Texas, New Orleans pulled out a dramatic comeback victory over Houston, by a final of 110-105. The Hornets were down by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, but outscored the Rockets by a 31-19 margin to force overtime.

The Rockets’ season began with high hopes in part due to a return to action by All-Star big man Yao Ming, but the 7-foot-6 center only managed to play five games before being ruled out for the rest of 2010-11 with another injury. Houston was picked by many analysts to finish in the top three of the Southwest Division, along with fellow Lone Star State teams San Antonio and Dallas, but the shorthanded Rockets have dipped to last place. After hovering around 11th and 12th place in the Western Conference of late, Houston needs to put together a lengthy string of success to get into position to make a postseason appearance.

With a 2-0 head-to-head lead against the Rockets, the Hornets can clinch the season series by prevailing Sunday. There is only one more game scheduled after Sunday between the two teams, on April 6 back here in New Orleans.


Power forward, David West vs. Luis Scola
One key to New Orleans’ pair of victories earlier this season vs. Houston has been West’s excellent play, as well as the Hornets keeping Scola somewhat in check. West has turned in several of the finest games of his career in Houston, including a 29-point outing Jan. 14. Meanwhile, Scola has shot just 8-for-27 (30 percent) from the field in two defeats vs. New Orleans.

A closer look at the Houston Rockets:

Kevin Martin

Chuck Hayes

On trade-deadline day Thursday afternoon, the Rockets completed a pair of deals that re-shaped their roster. Gone in deals to fellow Western Conference clubs were point guard Aaron Brooks (Phoenix) and longtime defensive stalwart Shane Battier (Memphis). Trade pickups for Houston include backup point guard Goran Dragic, reserve center Hasheem Thabeet and energy role player DeMarre Carroll.

Kevin Martin is one of the NBA’s most productive and efficient scorers, often able to put up big point totals without having to take a large number of shots to do so. For example, Martin piled up 45 points in one game vs. Portland in January, while going 13-for-18 from the field. The Western Carolina product is an outstanding foul shooter, making it important for the Hornets to try to keep him off the free-throw line.

Sturdy 6-foot, 205-pound Kyle Lowry is enjoying the best season of his five-year NBA career. The former member of the Memphis Grizzlies earned a reputation as one of the league’s toughest and most effective backup point guards, but moved into the Rockets’ first unit after Aaron Brooks’ injury.

After a promising debut season with Orlando, including an NBA Finals appearance in 2009, Courtney Lee has been part of two trades, playing for New Jersey last season before ending up in Houston. Lee played against the University of New Orleans multiple times in the Sun Belt Conference while playing for Western Kentucky.

Third-string rookie point guard Ishmael Smith was called upon early in the regular season to play significant minutes, but has played less frequently in recent weeks. The Wake Forest product played the final game of his college career in New Orleans, when the Demon Deacons were ousted from the NCAA Tournament by Kentucky.

Terrence Williams came to Houston via an offseason trade with New Jersey. While a member of the Nets last season, Williams produced a 14-point, 14-assist game vs. the Hornets.

A native of Argentina, Luis Scola is a throwback in terms of playing style, relying heavily on crafty low-post moves around the basket and mid-range jumpers. From that standpoint, Scola owns a similar skill set as the Hornets’ David West, though West possesses a bit more shooting range. The Hornets have held Scola well below his scoring average of 19 points per game this season, with games of nine and 14 points.

Second-year pro Chase Budinger was one of several tremendous second-round picks who came out of the 2009 NBA Draft. A former elite high school volleyball player, Budinger is an outstanding leaper.

Second-year power forward Jordan Hill has been one of the Rockets’ most improved players this season. The former New York Knicks lottery pick runs the floor well and finishes around the basket.

Jared Jeffries is relied on primarily for his defensive versatility. A lean 6-foot-11, Jeffries can be matched up against opponents of various sizes.

Patrick Patterson was one of five University of Kentucky players drafted in the first round last summer (the others were Washington’s John Wall, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, the Clippers’ Eric Bledsoe and Orlando’s Daniel Orton).

The Rockets’ center position was expected to be manned this season by Yao Ming, but injuries continue to derail the native of China’s pro career. After suffering a stress fracture in his left ankle early this season, there is no timetable for his return.

Despite being undersized for the center position, 6-foot-6 Chuck Hayes has filled in capably in the starting lineup, providing defense, rebounding and career-best offensive numbers.

Now in his 13th season, Brad Miller has long been one of the league’s best passers and shooters from the center position. Miller played for Sacramento during the prime of his career; his first two seasons were with the Hornets in 1998-99 and 1999-2000.

Players the HOU/NOH want shooting free throws in a close game…
Kevin Martin
Courtney Lee
Brad Miller
Chase Budinger
Kyle Lowry
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
David West
Marco Belinelli
Carl Landry
If the HOU/NOH need a three-pointer, their best options are…
Kevin Martin
Courtney Lee
Goran Dragic
Chase Budinger
Brad Miller
Marco Belinelli
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Willie Green
Trevor Ariza
Career FT percentage (through Feb. 24) Career three-point percentage (through Feb. 24)

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