After three days off, the Hornets will be back in action tonight against the Pacers at Spectrum Center in the start of a three-game home stand. The Hornets are looking to improve to 5-1, which would be the best six-game start in franchise history. In fact, the current 4-1 start is the best start since the 2000-01 season. Wild. As for the Pacers, they notched their third win on the season with a dominant 111-94 effort against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
Sure, the favorable schedule has helped the Hornets thus far, but it gives the team ever more reason to continue the hot start. As for the team's play in general, it definitely seeks improvement, on offense specifically. After having to erase a second half deficit against the 76ers on Wednesday of last week, the Hornets struggled to put away a injury-riddled Nets team on Friday.
The new-look Pacers have struggled with consistency early on and are seeking their first road-win of the season tonight. All-Star forward Paul George is accompanied by Monta Ellis and offseason-acquisition Jeff Teague as the primary ball-handlers, giving this team an intriguing dynamic. It's a constant attack from three players that love to drive the lane. To round out the starting five, also recently-acquried Thaddeus Young and Myles Turner fill out an athletic frontcourt that could pose problems against the likes of Marvin Williams, if healthy, and Cody Zeller. And we can't forget about former Hornets big man Al Jefferson, who was extremely important to the team's success over the past few seasons. He's definitely missed and is now an important piece off the bench for the Pacers.
As for the matchup itself, both teams have had very different statistical starts to the season. Currently, the Pacers are second in the league in points off turnovers with 21.8 per game, but the Hornets lead the league in least amount of turnovers with 11.6. The Pacers, however, do lead the league in 3-point percentage with 40.6, whereas the Hornets, despite a good start defensively, have given up the third most 3-pointers made with 10.6 per game through five contests. So, expect a battle of pace, a 3-point filled and a Jefferson-return game.
Out of the gate, in no surprise, Kemba Walker has stepped up when it's mattered. On the season, Walker is averaging 24.4 points and 4.6 assists, and scored a vital 30 points against the Nets. While Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may not be filling up the box score with points, he currently leads the team with 9.6 rebounds per game, which is a problem for opposing teams when he does it to both start the break or muster a second-chance opportunity. The Hornets will also look to Zeller to have a strong performance tonight considering he has to guard the versatile Turner in half court sets and on the break.
Speaking of Turner, his crazy 30 point, 16 rebound season opener set the tone to what type of season he wants to have. As the second leading scorer on the team with 17.2 per game, only George has more with 22.2. Also, a good sign for the Pacers, Jeff Teague had his best scoring game as a member of the team with 21 points on 9/14 shooting against the Bulls after getting off to a slow shooting start to the season.
Jeremy Lamb will miss his third straight game with a hamstring injury, and Roy Hibbert has already been ruled out of tonight's contest as well. To add another wrinkle in the Hornets frontcourt, Williams is questionable due to a viral infection, meaning we'd see even more of Frank Kaminsky, Spencer Hawes and Zeller. As for the Pacers, the only injury concern revolves around Rodney Stuckey, who suffered a hamstring injury on October 28 against the Nets after having a strong preseason.
The Hornets' frontcourt could be in for a long night due to injuries, but should be optimistic about their backcourt matchups. It'll be interesting to see how first-year Pacers coach Nate McMillan decides to guard Nicolas Batum and Kidd-Gilchrist with Ellis and George being the counterparts. One of either Batum or Kidd-Gilchrist should have a big game.
Last season, the Hornets swept the Pacers in the three games they played and will look to add to that winning streak tonight.