Game to pay attention to: Jazz at Hornets

There was a time when this sort of matchup seemed only interesting as a way for the two sides of the Chris Paul vs. Deron Williams "debate" to take hold of what felt right for them.

At this point, Paul is clearly better, but Williams has his number and routinely outplays the MVP candidate.

In a one-on-one pairing, Williams has the upper hand. Then again, Rajon Rondo could probably down Chauncey Billups or Steve Nash in a one-on-one game to 11 (by ones, win by two); doesn't mean we wouldn't take the All-Star over the Rondo in a second.

And now that we've finally established that teammates do count in the NBA (Them: "Williams wins games, man. Paul doesn't do that." Me: "No, Williams and Carlos Boozer win games."), and that Paul's continued stellar play matched with the improvement of those teammates has put New Orleans on top the West, maybe we can get down to what is really right:

New Orleans needs this game.

They need every game, it's been that way for months, and it will be that way until they go fishin' or go Lawrence O'Brien'in. The Lakers are matched up against Portland tonight, a likely win for Kobe's crew, and another loss to Utah (who have won six of seven) could leave the Hornets just a half game up on Los Angeles for the Western crown with a few games to play.

(Re-read that last line. New Orleans Hornets, April 8th, in the strongest and most competitive conference in NBA history, on top of things by a game and a half.)

San Antonio is in Phoenix tomorrow. A Hornets win and Spurs loss could effectively end San Antonio's chances, and make this a two horse race.

The Jazz come first, because they're the team that has taken two of three from New Orleans this year, and they're the outfit New Orleans will likely meet in the second round should the Hornets hang on to the top spot. Williams has been ridiculously good all season (51.3 percent shooting, 40 percent from long range? This is a man who could be averaging 25 a game, easy); but he's been killing the Hornets all season.

21 points per game on 69.4 percent shooting against Paul this year, in just 36.3 minutes per game, with 9.3 assists.

What was once entertaining remains entertaining and now means a whole heck of a lot. It's one of 11 games tonight, but it's the game of the night.

New Orleans Hornets: 54-22, 88.4 possessions per game (26th in the NBA, sorry Hubie), 113.8 points scored per 100 possessions (4th in the NBA), 107.2 points allowed per 100 possessions (6th in the NBA).

Utah Jazz: 51-26, 92 possessions per game (9th), 115.9 points scored per 100 possessions (1st!), 108.4 points allowed per 100 (12th).

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