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Playmakers Square Off

Deron Williams and Chris Paul were the top two point guards selected in the 2005 NBA draft, creating a bit of a rivalry between the Utah Jazz and the New Orleans Hornets.

Williams and the Jazz play host to Paul and the Hornets (9-4) as the two top playmakers meet for the first time this season on Friday night.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Utah -7 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 197.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 80% of bets for this game have been placed on Utah -7 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

In their head-to-head battles since they've become pros, Williams has enjoyed most of the success. The Illinois product has averaged 17.9 points and 5.8 assists in six games against Paul, with his Jazz going 5-1. Paul has averaged 14.8 points and 8.8 assists.

While Paul earned NBA rookie of the year honors after his first season, Williams became the first to reach the postseason last season, helping lead the Jazz (8-4) to the Western Conference finals.

The young point guards are among the league leaders in assists this season. Paul is second with 10.9 per game while Williams is fourth with 8.4.

The Hornets got off to a 9-2 start in 2007-08, winning five straight over a seven-day span before back-to-back home losses earlier this week to Orlando and Indiana. New Orleans shot just over 39 percent in a 105-93 loss to the Pacers on Wednesday.

Paul (8 points, 10 assists) was limited by a right ankle injury and Tyson Chandler, one of the NBA's leading rebounders, sat out, but the Hornets' lack of enthusiasm was what concerned their coach.

"The effort wasn't there for whatever reason," said Byron Scott. "It's mind boggling to me. I told everybody to make sure they get a tape of this game. Everybody in the arena could see we didn't play hard and they need to see that."

David West and Peja Stojakovic combined for 40 points. New Orleans led by one at halftime, but the Pacers outscored the Hornets 28-17 in the third quarter to take control.

"To me lack of effort is something not coachable," Scott said. "Right now I think they feel like they can just walk in here and win a game and it's not going to happen."

The Hornets rank second in the league in 3-point shooting at 41.6 percent, but they hit just 8-of-30 (26.7 percent) on Wednesday in their second loss in three days.

New Orleans has won four straight on the road, where they are 6-1 this season.

Utah had lost consecutive road games to Cleveland and Indiana before returning home on Monday and beating New Jersey 102-75. Williams hadn't played well in the team's two losses, shooting a combined 7-of-25 and scoring a total of just 19 points.

But the Jazz's second-leading scorer came back strong against the Nets, making 8-of-11 shots to finish with 20 points and six assists.

"D-Wills is definitely the one who makes us go," said Ronnie Brewer, who had 14 points and five steals. "He finds me for layups and dunks when I get out and run. He makes it easy."

Another player for whom Williams has made life easy is forward Carlos Boozer. Boozer became a bona fide star last season, averaging 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds on his way to being named to the Western Conference All-Star team.

He has stepped his game up to another level in 2007-08, averaging 24.6 points to go along with 11.1 rebounds.

"We forgot about those two games we had on the road, and that's one of the good things about this team," Boozer said. "We have a good sense of being able to forget our bad games and move forward."

Utah, which has won five straight at home, leads the NBA in assists per game - in large part due to Williams - with 26.2. The Jazz rank among the league's top three teams in field-goal percentage (48.5) and scoring (106.7 per game).

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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