New Orleans Hornets @ Orlando Magic


The Orlando Magic are coming off a huge win, a 96-89 victory over the Boston Celtics that allowed the Magic to virtually erase their loss to the Washington Wizards on Friday (or at least allowed their fans to forget about it). The Hornets, who had lost three straight games got a win over the Bobcats on Saturday night to put an end to their losing streak. The Hornets are currently two games out of the eighth spot (behind the Portland Trail Blazers) so every game is important.

The city of New Orleans is abuzz because of the Saints’ Super Bowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts and the Hornets would love to ride that momentum to a victory Monday night.

The 27-24 Hornets have been without the league’s best point guard and their best player, Chris Paul and will be for at least another month. The Magic enter the game looking for their sixth win in seven games and their ninth win in their last 11 games. The Hornets are 11-16 away from home and the Magic are 19-5 at Amway Arena.

Tip-off from the Am is scheduled for 8:00 pm EST and you can watch the game nationally on TNT. As always, if you can’t watch the game, you can listen to it locally on WDBO AM 580 and in Spanish on WONQ AM 1030.

The Line: Orlando – 7.5



Dwight Howard
Rashard Lewis
Matt Barnes
Vince Carter
Jameer Nelson

New Orleans

Emeka Okafor
David West
Peja Stojakovic
Morris Peterson
Darren Collinson

Chris Paul, the league’s fourth most efficient player in terms of P.E.R. this season, has played in 38 of the Hornets’ 51 games this season but has missed the last six and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks after undergoing left knee surgery. Rookie Darren Collison has been a more than adequate replacement. Collison is averaging just 7.7 points per game and 3.6 assists per game but has averaged 16.6 points per game, 9.8 assists per game and 3.8 rebounds per game over his last five, including a 24-point, five-rebound, and four-asssist game in the win over the Bobcats on Saturday. So even without Paul, Collison should still provide a very tough challenge for Orlando’s point guards.

Collison leads the league’s 14th most efficient offense that scores 99.8 points per game. The Hornets have relied on Collison and former All-Star David West to carry the scoring load. West is averaging 17.9 points per game on 49.1% shooting.

Collison has not been the only rookie who has impressed the Hornets. Former LSU Shooting Guard Marcus Thornton is averaging 10.9 points per game on 43.3% shooting and has been a pleasant surprise for the Hornets but Thornton has not played in New Orleans’ last two games because of a lower back injury. Morris Peterson has gotten those two starts and has scored eight points in each game.

It will be interesting to see if Vince Carter, who had 20 points, three rebounds and three assists against the Celtics, can put together a second good performance in a row.

New Orleans’ defense gives up 101.1 points per game and ranks 19th in efficiency. Emeka Okafor has always been a solid defender and has had a friendly rivalry with Dwight Howard, who was chosen number on overall instead of Okafor. Okafor was taken second by the Charlotte Bobcats and was traded to the Hornets in exchange for Tyson Chandler before the season. Okafor is averaging just 11.4 points per game but is grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game and is blocking 1.69 shots per game. Although Okafor had some early success against Howard, Howard has gotten the best of the matchup as of late and with Howard’s offense continuing to improve to go along with his incredible defensive play, that trend should continue. Okafor has averaged 12.2 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game against the Magic.

As long as the Magic come out with good effort and energy, they should be able to defeat the Hornets, but consistency has been the key for the Magic.

As I said earlier today, no lead is safe in a game involving the Magic – for either team.

Monday night’s game will also have a Mardi Gras theme and the Hornets will be wearing their alternate mardi gra uniforms.

(Andrew Melnick is Howard the Dunk’s lead blogger and a contributor at NFL Mocks Subscribe to his RSS feed and add him on Twitter to follow him daily.)