Unable to slow down some of the NBA's most prolific offensive teams, a visit from the scoring-challenged New Orleans Hornets might be just what the Portland Trail Blazers need.
The Blazers certainly had no trouble shutting them down in winning the first two meetings in New Orleans, and Portland will try to avoid losing its fourth in a row when its hosts the lowly Hornets on Monday night.
Portland (18-19) fell for the third time in as many games since the All-Star break and dropped below .500 for the first time this season Saturday, losing 122-110 to Minnesota. The Blazers had three players score at least 20 in Nicolas Batum (29), Gerald Wallace (25) and Jamal Crawford (23), but All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge, who averages a team-best 21.9 points, scored only 14.
"You're always concerned when you're in the process of a three-game losing streak, you're under .500 and you're out of the playoff run,'' Wallace said. "You can pick any one as a cause of concern.''
After allowing an average of 88.4 points in their final five games before the break, the Trail Blazers are surrendering 111.0 during their skid. Part of the problem is that Portland's last three games have come against Denver, Miami and Minnesota - among the league's highest-scoring teams.
The Blazers may be more successful at the defensive end against a New Orleans club that's 29th in the league at 88.4 points a game. The Hornets (9-28) have reached the 100-point mark once in 15 contests.
They didn't come close to triple digits in their first two games against the Blazers, losing 84-77 on Jan. 16 and 94-86 on Feb. 10. Portland limited New Orleans' starters to 38.5 percent shooting and 2 of 22 from 3-point range.
The Hornets could be in for another tough time on offense considering Carl Landry (MCL sprain), Emeka Okafor (sore left knee), Jason Smith (concussion) and Eric Gordon (right knee injury) are expected to be sidelined. They could have Trevor Ariza back after he missed the last two games with an illness.
New Orleans struggled mightily offensively in a 102-84 loss to Indiana on Saturday, as it entered the fourth quarter trailing 79-54. The Hornets had defeated Dallas 97-92 a night earlier.
"We definitely have the confidence that we can play with teams," forward Al-Farouq Aminu said. "We know that we can close out games after the Dallas game. We just need to take that momentum and head on the road."
The Hornets, opening a four-game trip, have lost three of four on the road and are 5-12 away from New Orleans.
Portland, which hasn't dropped four in a row since a six-game skid Nov. 20-Dec. 3, 2010, opened the season 11-1 at the Rose Garden but has gone 2-6 there since.
Aldridge has been in the middle of Portland's recent home woes, averaging 14.8 points in his last six home games after averaging 23.7 in his first 13.