Who: Charlotte Hornets
When: 9 p.m. EST
Where: Phoenix, AZ
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Winning this game would probably come as more of a relief than a cause for celebration for both teams. That's what happens when you sputter into a lengthy losing streak midway through the season and desperately need to pick up a win against a struggling team.
Luckily for the Hornets, their four straight losses game against four very strong teams in the Clippers, Raptors, Thunder, and Warriors, and they should be able to bounce back against a weak Phoenix Suns team that doesn't appear to have much bite at the moment. The Suns rank in the bottom 10 in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency, have a pretty shallow rotation, and recently lost Eric Bledsoe, their best player, for the remainder of the season.
Oh, and head coach Jeff Hornacek could be fired at any minute, with two of his assistants recently let go by the team. And one regular starter, Markieff Morris, openly hates playing for the organization. And their top free agent signing, Tyson Chandler, is having perhaps his worst season since becoming a starter. And they have the second-worst offensive turnover rate in the league. And they give up the highest field goal percentage to opponents.
It's not going well in Phoenix, is what I'm getting at.
Of course, they're not the Philadelphia 76ers, so they're not an irredeemable bucket of slop without any good players. They actually shoot the three about as well as anyone in the league (Golden State notwithstanding), ranking 3rd in the NBA with a .374 percentage. That's mostly the work of rookie Devin Booker, Mirza Teletovic, Jon Leuer, and T.J. Warren, all of whom are dangerous from behind the arc. Yes, it's kind of a ragtag group, but they've been getting the job done so far. The issue with Phoenix's offense isn't their shooting, it's that they rarely go to the free throw line, and they can't stop giving the ball away.
Even with the injuries to Charlotte's roster, this is still a very winnable game. Nicolas Batum is unlikely to play, Al Jefferson will definitely not play, and let's not even talk about Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, because these days, I'm prone to crying when his name comes up. But the Hornets will be able to compete nonetheless. Even as the Hornets' bench has lost a significant chunk of their depth (Spencer Hawes being healthy again is much bigger than any Charlotte fan would like to admit), they're playing against a team that didn't have a particularly dangerous bench before the injury to Bledsoe. With him out? It's not easy.
Since the Suns can shoot the three all night, I wouldn't be shocked if they pulled out to big leads over the course of the game. The Hornets will need to stick to a strong offensive gameplan, possibly get either Chandler or Alex Len into foul trouble, and guard the perimeter tightly. All of these goals are things the Hornets are capable of doing over the span of 48 minutes, especially against a team that's imploding as badly as a Steve Harvey live broadcast.
Let's go Hornets.