What: Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors
When: 10:30 p.m. ET
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
How: Fox Sports Southeast - Charlotte, WFNZ 610 AM
The Charlotte Hornets are losers of three straight and seven of their last 10 games after starting the season 14-9.
There isn't any one thing that's causing the slippage. Their chemistry hasn't been great lately, and that's seeped into everything from their offense to their defense to their overall effort level. A recent flood of injuries (and Al Jefferson's suspension) haven't helped either, and as a result, the Hornets sit in the 10th spot in the Eastern Conference.
Tonight, they play the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.
Let's be honest with each other for a moment: The Hornets are almost certainly going to lose tonight. Yes, the Warriors have been unbelievably good this season, and that alone is reason to worry. But the Hornets are also playing without Nicolas Batum in addition to the usual suspects, Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Jeremy Lin and Spencer Hawes are listed as probable for tonight's game, too. That means Kemba Walker's due for another 40-minute game, and that head coach Steve Clifford will need to rely on Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky more than he'd like.
Barring an offensive explosion from one of the Hornets' role players, the Hornets simply don't have the offensive fire power to keep up with the Warriors. It's going to be a rough night.
Three things to watch for
The battle at point guard
Stephen Curry is listed as questionable for tonight's game, which might thrust Shaun Livingston into the Warriors' starting lineup. Lin will be available for the Hornets, but his left ankle's been bothering him lately and he might be limited. Kemba's played 38.5 minutes per game over the Hornets' last ten games, and while the wheels haven't come off yet, his minute totals are becoming a concern.
If this game gets out of hand quickly, look for Clifford to play Brian Roberts more than he'd play him otherwise. The Hornets will give an honest effort tonight, but they're aware this game isn't an easy one.
No Batum, but Barnes is back
Harrison Barnes missed the Warriors' last 16 games with a severe ankle sprain. While his presence was missed, the Warriors have been fine without him thanks to absolutely stellar play from Draymond Green, the team's leader and point guard masquerading as a center. Still, Barnes is tied with Klay Thompson for the third-best net rating on the Warriors, at +18.2(!!).
Because the Warriors have been playing so well without him, they've been patient with Barnes' recovery. If he doesn't show much rust, the Hornets will have a very difficult time guarding him with Batum out. Which leads us to our final thing to watch for...
Lots of P.J., lots of Lamb
P.J. Hairston and Jeremy Lamb have had inconsistent seasons to say the least. Lamb in particular started the season very strong, but has since seen his efficiency, and subsequently his minutes, drop in recent weeks. However, with Batum out and Lin likely to play limited minutes, we're going to see a lot of Lamb and a lot of Hairston. If the Hornets have any shot of winning tonight, both players will need to put in great performances.
That might be asking a lot, though. But they'll get minutes, and they'll get touches, and they'll get shots. It could be glorious or very, very dark.