When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
You know who's been good lately? Kemba Walker has been good lately. In the Hornets' March 1 win over the Phoenix Suns, Kemba scored 26 points, and he's increased his scoring in every game since, scoring 30 or more in each of the last four games. The Hornets have won them all, giving them a five-game winning streak that they hope to continue tonight against the Detroit Pistons.
Here's a few notable things about the Hornets that illustrate how good they've been recently:
- They're 13-3 since January 29, one of the hottest streaks going in the NBA, and 8-2 since the All-Star break, which ranks behind only the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors.
- After a lackluster run of play early in 2016, the Hornets have turned around their play, and now rank in the top dozen teams in both offensive and defensive efficiency for the whole season, despite ranking no higher than 14th in either category a month ago.
- They're the only NBA team that has yet to lose a game in March.
In other words, they're on fire right now. It's great to see this from the team after season-long doubts, and unless a statistical anomaly or debilitating injury happens, it looks like the Hornets are going to be set for a playoff spot.
However, the Pistons are definitely not set in any playoff spot, and they're desperate for some wins. They're currently tied with the Chicago Bulls for eighth in the Eastern Conference, and could use a win against a quality team in order to get some separation in the standings.
The Pistons are a solid team that have seemingly underachieved all year. Of course, a record that's two games above .500 in March isn't exactly what most people would call underachieving, but it does seem like the Pistons are better than the Pacers and Bulls, and both rank above Detroit in the standings. They've used their strong rebounding skills and disciplined play to their advantage in many wins, but struggle to consistently shoot the ball, and don't have well-rounded personnel around the perimeter.
Andre Drummond is as good as advertised, and will create some issues, and Reggie Jackson is, just like his alma mater Boston College, a slightly worse version of his UConn counterpart (Kemba says hi; also, I might be biased here). The Pistons improved with their deadline acquisition of Tobias Harris, and have won six of their last eight games, but now have a less versatile frontcourt rotation with the loss of Ersan Ilyasova in that trade (and Anthony Tolliver due to injury), something that might prove to be their downfall against quality teams.
Between injury and less-than-stellar guard play, the Pistons don't currently have many advantages against the Hornets. Their frontcourt lineup is hard to match, with Drummond and Harris both starting, but backups Aron Baynes and Reggie Bullock can't match up with the Hornets' bench unit (especially one that features Al Jefferson), and there's still no way to tell which version of starting SF Marcus Morris is going to show up. With Stanley Johnson nursing an injury (and likely with 50/50 odds of playing), they can't move positions around much either. If this sounds a bit like recent versions of the Hornets, what with the injury problems adding up to create major lineup issues, that's probably a pretty good comparison.
The Hornets' only game against the Pistons so far this year was a 104-84 win in Charlotte. Cody Zeller scored 20 points, which probably won't happen again, but at least that bodes well for tonight.