The weakened Charlotte Hornets are taking on the San Antonio Spurs in Texas tonight.
The Hornets will be without Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams, Bismack Biyombo, and Jannero Pargo, effectively forcing them into giving meaningful minutes to the back of their bench.
The Hornets have won nine of their last 11 games, many of them without key players like Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson. Walker led the team through what could have been a series of losing streaks.
Now, Walker is gone. He's having surgery on his knee today, and could miss anywhere from four weeks to six months.
The Spurs, however, have been on a roll since Kawhi Leonard returned from a torn ligament in his hand. They're 22-7 with him in the lineup this season, and have won five of their last six games.
The Spurs are both a decent offensive and defensive team. They're ranked 9th in both field goal percentage and field goal percentage allowed this season, with marks of 45.8 percent and 44.3 percent, respectively. They're also fourth in defensive rebounding percentage at 77.5 percent, which means if you miss a shot against them, you're probably not getting a second chance.
The Spurs are led by the same old trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli, though all three are playing less minutes this season. However, Kawhi Leonard has emerged as the team's star player. He's leading the Spurs in scoring with 15.5 points per game, steals with two per game, and he's second in rebounds per game with 8.1.
The Hornets don't match up particularly well with the Spurs, either, especially with their injury-depleted roster.
Tim Duncan will be guarded by a group of Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller, and Jason Maxiell, none of whom have been particularly effective against Duncan in the past. Tony Parker will have no issue with exploiting Brian Roberts off the dribble, and the Hornets will need to focus much of their help defense on containing his dribble penetration. Perhaps Steve Clifford will assign Stephenson to guard Parker.
And that's exactly what the Spurs want.
This won't be an easy game for the Hornets, but it's certainly not out of reach if they play with purpose and energy.