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Preview: Trail Blazers Hone In On Hornets

02/16/11
  1. Written by: ShalamarClark  / avg. rating: 5.0



    The Portland Trail Blazers have been on the move in the past week, sweeping Toronto, Detroit and Minnesota all on the road to move up two spots to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

    On Wednesday, The Trail Blazers (31-24) will lock in on New Orleans (33-24) and try to deliver the Hornets their first loss in the series at the Rose Garden. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 PM. 

    Call it good timing for Portland, but the team has shifted into another gear right before All-Star break, tying its season best five-game streak with potential for more.

    The Trail Blazers recently coasted by the Timberwolves, 95-81, at the Target Center on Monday, where Wesley Matthews scored 23 points and seven rebounds, LaMarcus Aldridge dropped 21 and six and Dante Cunningham set a career-high 18 points and 13 rebounds to post their 16th straight win and tie the longest active streak over an NBA franchise. 

    Rudy Fernandez also cashed in on 18 points, including four 3-pointers, off the bench.

    Portland’s clean sweep helped the team advance to the No. 6 spot in the West, jumping Denver and Utah, after skating in the No. 8 seat. 

    A win for the Trail Blazers, who begins a five-game home stretch, can keep the team moving in the right direction.

    However, New Orleans, which has won the last two meetings against both teams and three straight at the Rose Garden, is not going to make it easy.

    The Hornets, who hold the No. 5 position, can claim their first series win since 2005-06 after losing two of their last four series.    

    New Orleans took a blow on Tuesday, when it traveled to Golden State and fell, 102-89, for its second loss in a row.

    David West and Marco Belinelli both finished with 15 points after shooting 45 percent from the field and went just 3-of-10 from 3-range. 

    Three Hornet players ended with 11 points–Trevor Ariza, Chris Paul and Jarrett Jack. Paul also totaled 10 assists.

    In the last meeting on Nov. 26, New Orleans made 34-of-66 attempts and 8-of-14 beyond the arc to outscore Portland 28-15 in the second quarter for a 97-78 upset at home.

    Willie Green led the Hornets with 19 points, Ariza scored 18 and Paul added 16 and 13 assists. 

    Brandon Roy led all scorers with 27 points, followed by Aldridge’s 14 points and nine rebounds as the Trail Blazers shot a low 39 percent and was outrebounded 48-27.

    Since then, Aldridge has more than doubled his scoring output.

    The 6-11 forward, who averaged 20 points and eight rebounds per game in three contests against the Hornets last season, was named the NBA’s Western Conference’s Player of the Week for the second time this season after netting 38.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.67 blocked shots and 1.33 steals against Chicago, Toronto and Detroit last week.

    Aldridge became the first Trail Blazer to score 36 points in three consecutive games, including a career-high 42 points over the Bulls and shot 63.1 percent and 84.6 percent at the line over the stretch.  

    To aid Aldridge, Matthews has reemerged in Portland’s offense in his last two games. He scored 26 and 23 and hit at least three deep balls to notch a 54 percent shooting mark.
      
    Belinelli and West have averaged 18 points in the two meetings, while Paul has netted 13 assists and 13.5 points.  

    Marcus Camby, Roy, Greg Oden and Elliot William are all listed out with knee injuries.

    For New Orleans, Quincy Pondexter is listed as questionable with a sprained right ankle. Emka Okafor is will no play due to a left oblique strain. 

    Watch the action on Comcast SportsNet Channel 37 with Mike Barrett and Mike Rice, and listen to 95.5 FM The Game with live play-by-play from Brian Wheeler and Antonio Harvey.

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