Western Showdown

Three months into the season, the Phoenix Suns are right where they were expected to be. Surprisingly, the New Orleans Hornets are there with them.

In a matchup of teams with the best records in the powerful Western Conference, the Suns go for their ninth win in 11 games Wednesday when they host the Hornets, who hope to avoid their longest losing streak of the season.

Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Phoenix -5.5 point spread favorites (NBA Odds) for today’s game, the over/under has been set at 215.5 total points (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 78% of bets for this game have been placed on Phoenix -5.5 (View NBA Bet Percentages).

Phoenix has won at least 54 games and the Pacific Division title in each of the last three seasons, and the Suns (34-14) are on pace to do so again in 2007-08. They're leading the pack in the West - 1 1/2 games ahead of Dallas and upstart New Orleans.

While the Suns have experience in being near the top of the standings, the Hornets (32-15) are still getting accustomed to it. They're on track for their first winning season since 2002-03 and could contend for the first division title in the franchise's 20-year history despite playing in perhaps the toughest division in the NBA.

New Orleans is tied atop the Southwest with Dallas, two games ahead of defending NBA champion San Antonio and 4 1/2 ahead of Houston.

The Hornets, though, were in better position before their recent skid. They've tied a season high with three straight losses since a season-high nine-game win streak.

After holding opponents to 86.9 points per game during that nine-game run, they've given up 112.7 during their losing streak.

"The bottom line in the last couple of games is teams are playing harder than we are,'' Hornets coach Byron Scott said after his club's 110-88 loss at Utah on Monday. "They beat us up a little bit - just played a lot better than we did."

A matchup with the top team in the conference isn't usually an ideal way to end a slide, but Scott's club has had success against the Suns. They've won the first two meetings this season after dropping 11 of the previous 12 in the series.

The Suns are just 5-9 against the nine other teams in the West that have winning records. They haven't lost three in a row to the Hornets since a five-game skid against them from March 10, 2002-Dec. 11, 2003.

"It's very important, that's a team that we haven't beaten yet. It's a team that's in second place and it's a double win right there," Nash said of New Orleans after Phoenix struggled in the first half before beating Charlotte 118-104 on Monday. "It's going to be a big game and we're going to have to play obviously a lot bigger than we did tonight."

Nash and the Hornets' Chris Paul - the top two assist men in the NBA and reserve point guards for the West All-Star team - will meet for the third time this season. Paul has averaged 24.5 points, 10.0 assists and 41.3 percent shooting from the field in those games, while Nash is averaging 17.5 points and 9.0 assists while shooting 50.0 percent against New Orleans in 2007-08.

Both players, however, are coming off sub-par performances. Paul shot 3-for-11 from the field and had six points, six assists and five turnovers Monday. Nash was held to eight points on 3-for-10 from the floor with 11 assists and five turnovers in Phoenix's win.

The Suns and Hornets close their season series Feb. 27 in New Orleans.

By: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us

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