When: Wednesday, March 25, 7 p.m.
Where: Time Warner Cable Arena
TV: Fox Sports South, NBA TV
With the season winding down, each game the Hornets play gains added importance, added 'must win'-ness to it. Which is bad, because the Hornets have been doing their best Bobcats impression lately and just playing...well...flat out poorly. Since winning their first five games of March, the team has gone 2-6, scoring more than their season average of 94.7 points just twice. They've also failed to score 70 in a game twice over that span.
And because one whammy isn't enough, Charlotte has been given another one lately: injuries! Just when it looked like the team may finally be all back together and the closest they've been to being healthy in months, Cody Zeller reinjures his shoulder and Al Jefferson suffers a sore right knee. The good news is that Big Al's injury does not seem like a significant one.
At this point the Hornets don't think Al Jefferson's sore knee is a significant concern.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) March 24, 2015
Both Zeller and Jefferson should be considered questionable for tonight's matchup, which is good and bad. How could it possibly be good, you ask? The Hornets are 7-3 this year without Big Al (shocking, I know), so him not playing does not make this game an automatic loss.
Then again, the Hornets are coming off a 1-4 road trip that they could not afford to play so poorly in and are facing Brook Lopez and the Brooklyn Nets. Lopez is now 4-1 in his career against Charlotte and is 29.7 points and 67.9 percent shooting over his last three games. Bismack Biyombo will need to put up a big performance to try and slow him down.
And then there's career thorn in Charlotte's side Joe Johnson. Oh, and Deron Williams, who reminded the league on Monday that he is a good player after all with his near triple-double and this absolutely filthy move on Brandon Bass.
Bright side — as poor as the Hornets have been playing, the Nets have been playing about as badly. Both teams are 4-6 over their last 10 games and neither side (along with Indiana and Boston) have been able to pull away in the four team race for the eight seed in the East.
Here is how the race for the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs currently stands.
And as if that was not enough weight to put on one game, the winner of tonight's game takes the season series, which is currently tied at 1-1 with both road teams winning in blowouts. The Hornets need a solid defense effort tonight. They cannot afford to let Lopez, Johnson or Williams get into a zone. Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kemba Walker will be key here. They also need to avoid their trademark slow start. Charlotte will need the backing of the fans at Time Warner Cable Arena, and nothing will take the energy out of the Cable Box quickly than yet another 15-point first quarter that sees the team down double digits.