The Charlotte Hornets are back at it tonight taking on the Washington Wizards in DC.
The Wizards have been ravaged by injuries, with Bradley Beal, Nene, Alan Anderson, Otto Porter, and Drew Gooden all missing significant time for them this season. It's no surprise, then, that the Wizards currently sit at 10-14 and are performing well below expectations.
The Hornets, however, have also been hit with injuries to some of their best players. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is out for the season, Al Jefferson hasn't played since Nov. 29, and Nicolas Batum missed Thursday's game against the Toronto Raptors with some sort of illness. That hasn't stopped them from rolling, though. The Hornets have won six of their last 10 games, many of them against quality opponents.
The short-handed Wizards are playing poorly. They're 25th in net rating this season despite playing one of the more average schedules thus far. They're bottom-10 in both defense and offense, they're allowing opponents to shoot a league-high 40.9 percent from behind the arc, they're a miserable rebounding team...really, the Wizards don't have much going for them. They've lost 10 of their last 14 games.
With Porter recently going down, rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. has been granted a larger role with the Wizards. He's stepped up for them, averaging 13 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 40 percent from deep in 21 minutes per game over the Wizards' last two contests.
As usual, if there's anyone the Hornets need to worry about tonight, it's John Wall. Wall's having a solid season despite the Wizards missing key shooters and scorers for him to pass to. On the season, he's averaging 19.6 points, 8.9 assists, and two steals while shooting 34.3 percent on 3-pointers on a career-high 4.3 attempts per game. He's still the all-around, uber athletic point guard that opposing guards fear, and the Hornets can't let him run wild in transition.
Things to watch for
So. Many. 3-pointers.
You think you've seen hot shooting from the Hornets this season? Just wait until tonight's game. The Wizards are allowing opponents to shoot a league-high 40.9 percent from deep against them while also allowing opponents to shoot 25.3 3-pointers per game. That's not good, and the Hornets can and will capitalize on that. By the way, the Hornets are ranked 10th in 3P% and second in 3PA.
The Hornets' guards are rebounding fiends
One of the main tenets of head coach Steve Clifford's defensive system is having the team's bigs focus on boxing out rather than securing rebounds themselves. Guards are expected to run to the boards once the dirty work's been done, so it's no surprise that seven Hornets are averaging four or more rebounds per game, and no single player is securing more than seven rebounds per game. It's a team effort.
Unfortunately (for Washington), the Wizards are an abysmal rebounding team. The Hornets are going to eat them alive on the boards. Don't be surprised if one or more of Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin, or Jeremy Lamb ends up with six or more rebounds tonight.
You have to stop Wall
No one player can stop Wall. He's huge for a point guard, unbelievably quick and athletic, strong, and has long arms with big hands. He's quite the handful in transition and the pick-and-roll, and the Hornets will need to make a concerted effort to stop him. With the Wizards so injured, if you stop Wall, chances are you beat them.
Walker's quick enough to stay with Wall, but he's too small to meaningfully contest shots at the rim and will be bullied if Wall decides to take the ball into the post. Lin's bigger and stronger, but he's not quite as fast as Walker. As a result, the Hornets' bigs are going to have to show more than they'd like when Wall calls for a pick. It's unlikely they hedge hard, as even though Wall is an improved shooter, he's still not a great one. You can live with him taking semi-contested 3-pointers.