Where: Time Warner Cable Arena
When: 7 p.m.
TV/Radio: Fox Sports Southeast/ WFNZ 610 AM
The Charlotte Hornets are in a bit of a slump. Over the past three games the Hornets have struggled to hit shots that they normally make. Poor shooting happens to jump shooting teams. The lack of a solid post scorer has also hurt the Hornets. Al Jefferson has certainly been cut out of the offense a bit this year, but having his post game as end of shot clock option is an advantage that not a lot of teams have. At the same time teams know how to contain and defend Big Al and neutralize him to a point.
Kemba Walker and Nicolas Batum need to return to form if this team is going to have a chance. Al Jefferson will be returning for a considerable absence and won't immediately contribute as much as he normally will. PJ Hairston needs to have a solid game to prove he should be a starter after a string of awful performances. Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller are continuing to improve and develop at an encouraging rate. Kaminsky in particular put up a 23 point, 7 rebound performance against the Celtics, and he showed off some good passing vision and post moves which is exciting to see. Jeremy Lin has also impressed off the bench with his play and continued to be a steady presence. The Hornets overall need to be confident in their offense against a struggling Memphis team. No more of this dribble around and doubt; they need to go out and play their game with confidence and hit their shots. It's not easy against a team with feisty defenders in Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Marc Gasol but it's certainly doable.
This is a different Memphis team than the one we saw December 11. The Grizzlies are giving small ball a try by playing Jeff Green at the stretch four and bringing Zach Randolph and Tony Allen off the bench. I will say that those two players coming off the bench is interesting. Can Spencer Hawes and Frank the Tank bang with Randolph in the post? Will Tony Allen come in and immediately shut down Lin? It'll be interesting to find out. The Grizzlies new strategy is surrounding the superstar Spaniard Marc Gasol with four shooters to open up the floor. It's similar to what the Hornets have done with Big Al. The problem is the team shoots only 31% from three as a team (the worst percentage in the league), and they also attempt the fourth fewest threes in the league at just around 17 attempts a game. This Memphis team is at a crossroads. The strategy that they've had the past few years has just not been effective this year. Their offense has dropped off significantly, and they no longer have a suffocating defense to back it up. I commend Coach Dave Joerger for trying a new strategy and seeing if it pays off. This could be the strategy that changes the face of the Grizzlies, or it could just prove the team doesn't have the personnel to compete like it has in the past.
Overall this will be a game of two teams playing similar systems with somewhat similar players. Hopefully the Hornets can fight out of this slump with a win at home.