The Charlotte Hornets were a good team last season, tying for seventh in the NBA, but there were three specific game scenarios in which they struggled: the second game of back-to-backs, road games, and games on the weekend.
They’ll get a chance to do all three at once tonight in New Orleans, as they face the Pelicans, in hopes of increasing their winning streak and tying the Atlanta Hawks for second place in the Eastern Conference.
The good news, though, is that the Hornets will get help in a few different ways. One is that they seem relatively healthy right now. Roy Hibbert and Kemba Walker were both listed on the injury report going into last night’s win against Atlanta but played well enough to quell any concerns, leaving Jeremy Lamb as the last Hornet who’s fully out.
Another is Charlotte’s strong defense, which doesn’t give up easy points, cleans up the defensive boards, suppresses the deep shot, and rarely fouls. That works perfectly against a team like New Orleans, which needs easy points, hardly bothers to crash the offensive glass, struggles to shoot from outside, and relies on their ability to draw fouls to spark their offense. That’s a very good sign for the Hornets.
And the third thing is that the Pelicans are, uh, bad. Their defense is pretty solid, given that they do have Anthony Davis, Destroyer of Worlds, but their offense is one of the worst in the NBA, and will struggle even more than usual against the Hornets.
There are a few positives about the Pelicans, of course. One is Davis, who shouldn’t ever be understated, as he is absolutely one of the very best players in the NBA, and has a massive impact on both ends of the floor. Another big one is the return of Jrue Holiday to the court, as the former All-Star recently suited back up following his leave of absence to tend to his wife (USA soccer champion Lauren Holiday), who had brain surgery to remove a tumor one month after giving birth for the first time. You know, no big deal.
So the Pelicans’ best two players are back again (Davis missed a game due to injury), and that’s going to improve their overall ability. They both looked impressive in Friday night’s win against the Portland Trail Blazers, and that bodes well for the Pellies for the next few games. Thankfully, the Hornets defense won’t give in as easily as Portland’s did.
Keep an eye out for the Nicolas Batum to Cody Zeller connection again tonight. The duo had a terrific showing against the Hawks yesterday, and their great play has a very high chance of continuing against the Pelicans’ very weak perimeter defense. Holiday is still catching up to the rest of the team, meaning starters’ minutes will likely fall to Tim Frazier and E’Twaun Moore, and they haven’t shown any defensive chemistry so far this year. Yes, Davis will likely get involved in the effort to stop the potent pick-and-roll play between Batum and Zeller, but it should be noted that Cody Zeller has a habit of beating Anthony Davis in big games.
Okay, fine, that’s Christian Watford on the shot, and the defender was a former Pelican, Darius Miller, but you get the point, Zeller’s team beat Davis’s team, let’s move on.
This is a game that the Hornets would have undoubtedly played way too close last season, but with the team’s noted improvement this year, that might not be the case anymore. Of course, Davis being the player he is combined with Holiday’s return means that the Pelicans have their worst games of the year behind them already. Let’s hope we can say the same about the Hornets too.