With four games down, the Charlotte Hornets sit at 3-1, good for a share of second place in the Eastern Conference. That's a really good start, and they have a chance to make it even better by breaking off a win streak in the current stretch of schedule, a relatively weak one.
After overcoming a halftime deficit against the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, the Hornets face the Brooklyn Nets (2-3) tonight at 7:30 p.m. Despite being just one game under .500, the Nets are not a good team, and have some injuries as well, meaning the Hornets, in theory, should have no trouble dispatching their subpar opponent.
The Nets have already beaten the Pacers and the Pistons, two solid teams last season, but the stats don't expect them to continue that trend. They rank 17th in the league in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defensive efficiency. While they don't foul often, they aren't a good rebounding team, giving up too many second chances to opposing offenses, and struggle to keep the ball out of their own basket.
The Nets offense, when it's working, is predicated around ball movement, in contrast with other Nets teams of the last few years. Unfortunately, they have injuries to two key point guards, which would massively limit their offensive potential if the pair is unable to suit up tonight. Jeremy Lin, who has had a solid start reminiscent of his play in Charlotte last year, suffered a hamstring strain and will not play tonight, while backup Greivis Vasquez has missed the last two games. That could leave rookie Isaiah Whitehead as the only healthy point guard, and Whitehead hasn't proven anything in his four appearances so far.
Without Lin, shutting down the Nets offense at the point of attack shouldn't be too difficult, as the Hornets have played very well defensively so far. The potential absence of Roy Hibbert due to injury would open up opportunities for great post scorer Brook Lopez and slasher Sean Kilpatrick, but the Charlotte defense could smother some less effective players.
The Hornets have a few ways to score on the Nets, and it all starts with Kemba Walker. No team has given up more assists than the Nets this year, and Kemba, as always, will be starting off the plays. The secondary playmakers will take on a big role in this game as well, and the Hornets have their share of quality passers at the non-point guard positions, including Nicolas Batum, Frank Kaminsky, and even Spencer Hawes, who this year has been mostly avoiding the plays where he pounds the ball into the ground looking only for his own shot. A strong interior passing game against the Nets defense will be the key for the Hornets in this game.
Jeremy Lamb will be missing this game with injury, and Hibbert will reportedly be a game-time decision. The Nets may be without Lin and Vasquez, and Randy Foye, who has yet to play this season, might not be ready for tonight's contest.
The Hornets have spent many years as the type of team that was capable of playing down to weaker teams, but that doesn't seem to be the case through four games this season. Here's hoping they can pick up an easy win on their schedule and look ahead at building a winning streak that could keep them toward the top of the Eastern Conference standings.ning