There’s no sense burying the lead: the Hornets just faced a rough stretch in their schedule and may have been lucky to only lose four straight games. Thankfully, a win over the Knicks in their most recent game may have reversed the downward trend.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the Hornets are out of the woods yet. Not only are they still dealing with injuries that may keep a few key players out of the game tonight, they also face the Memphis Grizzlies, a team that got the better of the Hornets in their matchup a week ago.
The injury report may be the story of the game, as it’s going to be damaging to both teams. Marvin Williams will be out with a bone bruise, and Nicolas Batum and Marco Belinelli might both miss the contest. Meanwhile, Memphis has issues of their own, as they’ll be without starters Chandler Parsons and James Ennis, and Zach Randolph (who is still very effective even in a diminished role) could potentially miss the contest for personal reasons.
That does still leave both teams with a smattering of quality players, of course. They’re both good teams, and good teams tend to have several good players. And both teams, as always, are very strong on the defensive end, meaning we may see an offensive struggle in this game, as neither team has the depth they’re used to, and will not be able to deploy their regular rotations.
That benefits the Hornets more than the Grizzlies. Memphis has a top-heavy squad, and their shooting woes expand the deeper they go on their bench. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have been having great seasons, and JaMychal Green spaces the floor well, but there’s not much more after that. Those three are the only real three-point shooters the Grizzlies currently have right now.
That’s great news for the Hornets bench. While they’re a solid group, the Hornets’ second unit hasn’t had the same defensive impact this year that they did in the previous season, although they have retained the ability to score in bunches. If Belinelli misses the game, that becomes a little less true, but Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb have also had strong offensive performances this year, and their defensive troubles won’t be tested by a weakened Memphis bench.
Of course, the Hornets will likely be shorthanded too, and they haven’t been playing too well as of late. They’re absolutely vulnerable against a team that plays a swarming defense, such as the Grizzlies.
With luck, they’ll be able to take this game and build a winning streak to counteract their recent run of losses. The Hornets will be fighting for the rights to host a first-round playoff series this year, and it would benefit them to stay in the first four spots in the conference.