The Mavs (11-5) will try to win their third consecutive game tonight against the New Orleans Hornets (11-6). It is the first of a three-game road trip that will take them to Chicago and San Antonio over the next five days. The Mavericks have taken an astonishing 21 straight games against the Hornets and have not lost to them since they February of 1999 when the Hornets were still in Charlotte and were led by current Maverick Eddie Jones. It is the longest current winning streak of any team against another team in the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL.
No more NOOCH
The Hornets are no longer New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets and will play all their home games in New Orleans for the first time since the 2004-05 season. Attendance has been sparse even with the Hornets doing their best to drum up support. Long gone are the rockin'-and-rollin' crowds at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City. The Hornets have been lucky to bust 12,000 attendants―a far cry from the 18,000 they were used to playing in front of in Oklahoma City. Don't be surprised tonight if you see the New Orleans Arena looking like American Airlines Center's lower bowl in the first quarter of a Mavs game.
Chris Paul is really darn good
The third-year guard may be the best point man in the league and is putting up exceptional numbers. He's averaging 18.6 points, 10.4 assists and 3 steals per game. He's also shooting exceptionally well with a 90.7 percent free-throw percentage and 47.3 field-goal percentage. By pure overall numbers, he has been just better than Baron Davis and Steve Nash and is operating with less impressive offensive weapons and schemes around him than both Davis and Nash. He had a 19-point, 21-assist game earlier in the year and is truly making his teammates better.
The Hornets haven't made the playoffs since 2004. That Baron Davis-led team looked very different from the Hornets of today and the organization has done a great job in drafting and acquiring solid young talent. Where some teams look to keep adding kindling to their flaming enterprise (looking your way Madison Square Garden), it's nice to see a team start from the ground up and recover so quickly. With Paul flourishing and young big men Tyson Chandler and David West blossoming into a talented young front court, the Hornets threw Morris Peterson into the mix this year and Peja Stojakovic in last year. With some decent backup players in Jannero Pargo and Rasual Butler, the Hornets likely have what it takes to scoot into the playoffs somewhere in the 5 to 7 seed range.
Watch out for the three
With the addition of Peterson and the health of Stojakovic, the Hornets can hit threes in bunches. New Orleans is seventh in the league in three-pointers made and fifth in three-point percentage. The Mavs have struggled in the last few games rotating defensively to defend the perimeter, especially on the fast break. Bobby Jackson and Chris Paul will hit one now and again also, so just know that no matter how big the Mavs may lead tonight, it isn't safe.
-Scooter Hendon, Hoops Nerd