Trail Blazers-Hornets Preview

After spending the previous five seasons with the Portland Trail

Blazers, Monty Williams is now in charge of the NBA’s last

remaining unbeaten team.

In Williams’ first matchup with his former club, the New Orleans

Hornets will try to improve to 8-0 by ending a three-game home

losing streak to the Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

Before becoming the league’s youngest head coach, the

39-year-old Williams was an assistant under current Blazers head

man Nate McMillan.

So far, it doesn’t look like Williams will serve as an assistant

any time soon as he’s led the Hornets to a franchise-best

start.

After giving up 102.7 points per game last season, New Orleans

is allowing a league-low average of 90.1 during its 7-0 start. The

Hornets are also second in opponents’ field goal percentage (42.5)

after ranking near the bottom of the league in that category in

2009-10.

A healthier Chris Paul has helped New Orleans but so has a

resurgent Emeka Okafor. The former No. 2 overall draft pick has hit

a league-best 72.7 percent of his shots while averaging 12.3

points. He’s also registering a team-leading 8.1 rebounds and 2.3

blocks.

“Our team defense has been better than any individual. That’s

what we’ve been preaching,” Williams said. “(Okafor is) the anchor

behind all of our guys, and he’s done a great job.”

The Hornets have also benefited from different contributors off

the bench. In Tuesday’s 101-82 rout of the Los Angeles Clippers,

Willie Green had a team-best 19 points while making seven of 10

shots, and former Trail Blazer Jerryd Bayless contributed a

season-high 15 points.

Bayless’ former team has struggled to find consistency since its

3-0 start, alternating losses and wins in its last seven games. The

Blazers have allowed an average of 79.3 points in their three

victories over that span and 112.0 in their four defeats.

Portland (6-4) nearly broke that pattern against Oklahoma City

on Friday night, but allowed the Thunder to go on a late 10-0 run

in a 110-108 loss. The Blazers still had a chance to win but Rudy

Fernandez missed a 3-pointer from the corner with 2.9 seconds

left.

“I don’t think we could have got a better look,” guard Brandon

Roy said. “I don’t want Rudy being down on himself. I feel like I

can handle missing that, and I don’t want him second-guessing it

next time.”

With 24 points, Roy topped 20 for just the second time in seven

games this month after averaging 25.0 in the first three contests.

He had 28 points and hit 12 of 14 shots in the Blazers’ last trip

to New Orleans, a 112-101 win March 27.

Paul, meanwhile, was held to seven points in that game and has

averaged 7.3 while shooting 25.9 percent during his team’s

three-game home slide to Portland.

Paul, though, also scored 24 points to lead the Hornets in a

98-97 win at the Rose Garden on Jan. 25. Roy missed that game

because of an ailing right hamstring.

That victory was the only one for New Orleans in its last four

overall meetings with Portland.