Two Western Conference playoff teams separated by just one game in the standings
collide Wednesday night in a key contest. Portland (43-41 straight up, 38-33-3 against the spread
) is slightly ahead of New Orleans (42-32 SU, 35-37-2 ATS) as the regular season starts to wind down.
How big is that one game? If the regular season ended today, the sixth-seeded Trail Blazers would face third-seed Dallas in the opening round of the playoffs. The seventh-seeded Hornets would have to play two-time defending champion the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.
New Orleans must now also play the rest of the season without forward David West, who suffered an injured knee last week.
Portland improved to 3-1 SU its last four outings after beating San Antonio Monday as a three-point road underdog, 100-92. The Trail Blazers had failed to cover their previous two contests, while the combined 192 points went ‘over’ the 187 ½-point closing total.
Portland caught a Spurs squad playing without Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. However, the Trail Blazers trailed late before outscoring San Antonio in the fourth quarter, 33-20. Portland managed just nine points in a dismal third quarter.
The Trail Blazers won the rebounding battle, 39-37, but they trailed in assists, 16-15, and points in the paint, 48-34. Portland shot a stellar 52 percent (34-of-65) from the field, and 47 percent (8-of-17) from behind the arc. Point guard Andre Miller paced the offense with 26 points on 9-of-15 shooting, while guard Wesley Matthews added 19 and five rebounds.
New Orleans concluded a three-game West Coast road trip with Sunday’s setback to the Lakers as a nine-point underdog, 102-84. The combined 186 points went ‘under’ the 188 ½-point closing total, ending a string of back-to-back ‘over’ outings. The Hornets are now just 1-4-1 ATS their last six games.
New Orleans found itself down by 18 points at one point in the first half, and finished the game trailing in rebounding, 44-43, and points in the paint, 50-44. The Hornets shot 40 percent (35-of-87) from the field, but a dismal 18 percent (3-of-17) from 3-point land.
Power forward Carl Landry accounted for 24 points and 10 rebounds in the setback, while center Emeka Okafor added 14 and 11. Point guard Chris Paul provided 10, five and nine assists, while guard Marco Belinelli had nine.
New Orleans is 2-1 SU and ATS this season versus Portland, while the ‘over’ is 5-2 the previous seven encounters. The Hornets prevailed Nov. 13 as a four-point home ‘chalk,’ 107-87, and Nov. 26 as a four-point road underdog, 97-78. The Trail Blazers won the most recent matchup Feb. 16 as a 5 ½-point home favorite, 103-96. The road team is 6-2 ATS the last eight games in this series.
Portland now begins a three-game homestand against Oklahoma City, Dallas and Golden State. The Trail Blazers are 6-2 ATS their last eight outings overall.
New Orleans continues its five-game homestand versus Memphis, Indiana, Houston and Phoenix. The Hornets are just 3-8-1 ATS their past 12 home games, while the ‘under’ is 11-5 their last 16 outings overall.
Wednesday’s contest is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m. PT from New Orleans Arena.