Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
When: 3:30 pm ET
How: Fox Sports Southeast, WFNZ 610 AM
The Charlotte Hornets last win was December 28th against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers. The win that night gave Charlotte a 17-13 record and a top 8 spot in the Eastern Conference. Their opponent two nights later at Time Warner Cable Arena was the Los Angeles Clippers, and since then, everything has fallen apart. The Hornets lost a close one that night 122-117, and the biggest question coming out of the loss was if the Hornets depth could hold up under a barrage of injuries.
We've found out since that loss that it cannot. The welcome news of MKG's potential return aside, things look bleak: this battered team has yet to win in 2016 and needs to turn it around in a hurry, with no major reinforcements in sight (unless you consider the Bogdanovic rumors legitimate). They get a chance to turn it around today in Los Angeles against the team that started their recent fall, a team that hasn't lost in their last seven: the undefeated-in-2016 Clippers.
The Clippers are on fire, utilizing smaller lineups in the absence of their star big man, Blake Griffin. Without Al Jefferson, the Hornets haven't been able to protect or score in the paint; without Griffin, the Clippers are playing their best basketball of the season. They're averaging 112.2 points since he left with a partially torn left quad, and he won't be back today either (as if this is a good thing).
J.J. Redick is playing at an All-Star level (what?), averaging 20 points per game without Griffin in the lineup, and Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan aren't too shabby either. This is a good (if not great) team, even when missing an All-Star. Even Austin Rivers played out of his mind in Charlotte a week and a half ago, putting down a season high 22 points off 7 of 11 shooting.
The Hornets, meanwhile, lost at Phoenix on Wednesday night, a team battling and then snapping their own nine game losing streak. Al Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are clearly out on Saturday, and Nicolas Batum is questionable as well. But, the Hornets have had two days off to get their minds right, and they probably went bowling Thursday or Friday night if Coach Clifford is half the coach I think he is. He has clearly had issues with his team's effort on defense, benching Jeremy Lamb for the entire second half Wednesday night (possibly for injury, but likely for his lack effort).
Will that message get through to the rest of the team and wake up their defensive effort? Will Kemba's Herculean efforts be enough scoring punch for a Hornets squad in desperate need of a 2016 win? Will someone else wake up and be the star we need in the absence of Big Al and MKG? We'll see this afternoon.