Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR
When: 10:00 pm ET
How: Fox Sports Southeast, WFNZ 610 AM
It has been a busy week for Charlotte Hornets news off the court and an even more exhausting month for the Purple and Teal on it. The Hornets lost big on Wednesday night in Utah, 102-73, and looked like they were out of gas before they even tried to start the engine. The likely reason why? Two nights before, they played a thrilling double-overtime game against the Sacramento Kings and won while playing without several injured starters. The team's last two-day break was over two weeks ago, and the road trip doesn't let up just yet either: the Hornets travel to Los Angeles for a date with the Lakers on Sunday before returning home.
Before they can do that, they get to travel to the sunny Pacific Northwest to play the Portland Trail Blazers. Sitting in the final Western Conference playoff spot with a 21-26 record, the Blazers are playing good basketball of late, having won two of their last three and six of their last eight. Contrasting the Hornets recent run, the Blazers just started a 17-day homestand with several two-day breaks and will surely look to capitalize on the Hornets' injuries and exhaustion.
The Blazers have won the last seven matchups with Charlotte in Portland, so that doesn't bode well for the visitors either. Noah Vonleh has scored in double digits in his last two games, and Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Gerald Henderson will look to continue their recent hot hands as well.
On the Hornets side, there are plenty of positives coming into this one. The Hornets, while just outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture at 22-24, have the better record and have been playing some inspired basketball of late (outside of Wednesday night's exhausted faceplant). They also won the last matchup against Portland in convincing fashion back in November at the Hive. In that game, the Hornets scored an astounding 71 points in the first half against a shell-shocked Blazers defense, then cruised through the second half to an easy victory, 106-94.
Nicolas Batum starred in the November matchup against his former team and returns to Portland for the first time this season fresh off his return from injury Wednesday night. November was Batum's best month of the season (and the Hornets' best as well, #signbatumlongterm), but he scored 33 points that night and will be available tonight at the Moda Center as well.
Time out. I can't believe I've written five paragraphs before mentioning the biggest positive news of the week. MKG might be back tonight, folks. MKG! It has been a rough few months on the defensive side of the ball for Charlotte after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist injured his shoulder in the preseason, but news came out that he might be ready to go sooner rather than later, and last night his status was upgraded to questionable for tonight's game. You'd have to assume Clifford will ease him back into the lineup, but there's a chance he plays tonight, and that's a good thing.
MKG playing end of January or start of February is an amazing accomplishment following October shoulder surgery.— Rick Bonnell (@rick_bonnell) January 29, 2016
And the last piece of good news, a piece that makes me think we might win this one: Kemba Walker is not an All-Star. I know that's a kick in the gut and a dagger in the heart because clearly he should have been, but Kemba now gets extra rest around the All-Star Break and... the best part... a giant chip on his shoulder. As of today, Kemba All-Star-Snub Walker gets to show why he should've been an All-Star to the rest of the league every. single. night. His first opponent for All-Star-Snub Revenge? The Portland Trail Blazers.
I'll take extra rest for the exhausted star and a permanent chip on his shoulder over an All-Star reserve spot any day. We all know he'll be an All-Star in 2017 when the game's at the Hive.
So, for this game, I did a search for "Revenge" on YouTube, and this was the number one music video with over 150 million views. Must be good. Before I listen to it: may this Revenge anthem be pounding in Kemba Walker's head as he takes on the Blazers tonight.
Oh my God, never mind, please don't listen to that. That's worse than I could've imagined. Just imagine Kemba getting putting up 53 tonight and the Trail Blazers losing at home. Go Hornets.