Hornets-Trail Blazers Preview

The Associated Press

The Portland Trail Blazers are getting desperate for some momentum, so possibly getting Raymond Felton back for another meeting with the New Orleans Hornets could be just what they need.

While Felton's return is uncertain, the Trail Blazers go for their first season sweep of the Hornets in nine years Thursday night when these last-place teams meet at the Rose Garden.

Portland (23-27) is at the bottom of the Northwest Division, trailing fourth-place Minnesota by one game while sitting 3 1/2 back of Utah and Denver - both tied with Houston for the final two playoff positions in the Western Conference.

The Trail Blazers continue to head in the wrong direction, having dropped 11 of 16 while surrendering an average of 102.3 points. They're 3-4 under interim coach Kaleb Canales, who replaced the fired Nate McMillan earlier this month.

Portland fell again Tuesday, losing 109-95 to Oklahoma City as Felton was away to be with his mother while she underwent a heart procedure.

It's unclear if Felton will return Thursday, but the team is hoping he's back - and for good reason.

The guard, who has a team-high 6.1 assists per game, is averaging 16.0 points over his past six contests, posting a season-high 24 in a 90-87 win over Golden State on Sunday to open this three-game homestand.

That was a relatively rare win during a rough stretch at home. The Blazers are 5-8 there since an outstanding 11-1 start, during which they averaged 105.8 points.

Facing the Hornets (13-37) figures to help since Portland has won all three meetings this season, including an 86-74 home victory March 5, as Felton dished out 10 assists with only one turnover. The Blazers last swept a season series from New Orleans in 2002-03, when the clubs met only twice because the Hornets were in the Eastern Conference.

J.J. Hickson will try to build on his best performance in a Blazers uniform. The big man scored a season-high 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting against the Thunder after totaling 18 in his first two games with Portland, which acquired him off waivers from Sacramento last week.

Hickson is averaging 5.4 points and 4.9 rebounds on the season after getting career highs of 13.8 and 8.7, respectively, in 2010-11 with Cleveland.

"He's a guy that's gonna set the screen and he's gonna roll hard. As a point guard those are two things you want," guard Jonny Flynn told the team's official website. "Somebody that's gonna stop somebody, hit somebody on the screen and who is gonna dive to the basket."

The Hornets remain last in the West, but they've won three of four on the road after beating Golden State 102-87 on Wednesday.

New Orleans played without Chris Kaman (illness) and fellow big man Gustavo Ayon (personal), while Trevor Ariza (sore right ankle) also sat out. Emeka Okafor and Eric Gordon remain out, but three players stepped up with at least 20 points each against the Warriors.

Jarrett Jack had 20, along with some advice for his teammates as the Hornets play out the string.

"You still have a job to do," Jack said. "Don't sell yourself short. Don't sell the team, the city or the fans short. They come out each and every game. Go out and play hard and don't do yourself a disservice."

Jack was held to a season-low three points while making 1 of 6 field goals at Portland earlier this month.

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