Game time: 8 p.m.
Where: Smoothie King Center - New Orleans, LA
TV: Fox SportSouth and NBA LeaguePass
The Charlotte Hornets will engage the New Orleans Pelicans in Louisiana tonight, and this will be the first time the new Hornets take on the old Hornets. The Pelicans organization was kind enough to hand over all statistics, records and history to Charlotte, effectively making New Orleans a brand-spanking-new organization. Still, it will be hard for some fans to forget what George Shinn did to the city of Charlotte, even as he's long gone from the NBA.
The Pelicans are a solid, up-and-coming team filled to the brim with young talent. Their backcourt looks disorganized on paper, and thus far, the combination of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, Austin Rivers, and Jimmer Fredette has proved to be inconsistent. The trio of Holiday, Gordon, and Evans have combined to shoot just 37.5 percent from the field this season. Sure, it's still early in the year for the Pelicans, but you have to wonder if this is the lineup they want going forward.
But that's where the bad stuff ends. The Pelicans also have an NBA superstar in Anthony Davis. Davis was projected to be a superstar by many since his sole year at Kentucky, and it seemed unfair to put that amount of pressure on a young player. However, a stint with USA Basketball in 2012 allowed him to witness how greatness prepares and performs, and Davis quickly blossomed into a devastating defensive presence with an emerging offensive game. Last season, Davis averaged 20.8 points per game, 10 rebounds per game, 2.8 blocks per game and 1.3 steals per game, all while shooting 51.9 percent from the field in his first year as an NBA All-Star. He's only improved on those numbers this year. Yes, seriously.
The Hornets will struggle to contain Davis on both ends of the floor. Defensively, Davis will have a tremendous impact on Al Jefferson's ability to establish his position in the paint, and finding enough space for a clean shot won't be any easier for Jefferson. Still, veteran savvy often outperforms youthful exuberance, so it's entirely possible that Jefferson serves Davis a cold dish in the post.
This will also be Brian Roberts' first game against his former squad, and one that will see him match up with players reminiscent of his style of play in Rivers and Fredette.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist appears to be ruled out of tonight's game as he recovers from a rib contusion, which is unfortunate but certainly the right move by the Hornets. Kidd-Gilchrist has been phenomenal this season, looking improved across the board. He would have given the Hornets a distinct advantage on the wing in this game.
Generally speaking, this game should be ugly. The Pelicans and Hornets aren't especially good offensive teams, and both are a great defensive teams. Good rotations, blocked shots, clean strips, and quick closeouts should be abundant.
Will the Hornets win? It's hard to say. Both teams improved significantly over the offseason, and sport similar rosters. They match up well, which should make this a very interesting game, even if it is ugly.
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