When: Mar. 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Palace of Auburn Hills, Detroit, MI
How: Fox Sports Southeast or NBATV (TV), WFNZ 610 AM (radio)
With just 11 games left in the Charlotte Hornets' season and the playoffs just weeks away, the Hornets have found their groove. Winners of 22 of their last 30 contests, everything seems to be clicking for the Hornets. Shots are falling, the defense is locked in, chemistry is at an all-time high, and Monday's win over the San Antonio Spurs solidified the Hornets' claim of being a legitimate threat in the playoffs.
Tonight, the Hornets play the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons are winners of seven of their last 10 games, though most of those wins came against relatively poor competition. However, they did play two Eastern Conference playoff teams last week — the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Wizards — but ended up losing both contests. Keep in mind, though, that the Pistons are a good home team. They've won seven of their last eight games at the Palace.
A win tonight would give the Hornets yet another tiebreaker over an Eastern Conference rival, something more pertinent than in years past considering how the seeding is playing out. Teams seeded three through six are separated by a mere half a game, with the eighth-seeded Pistons being just 3.5 games behind that. You can read more about the Eastern Conference playoff picture and how it relates to the Hornets here.
This game, like every Hornets versus Pistons game, will come down to how the Hornets handle Andre Drummond inside and Reggie Jackson on the perimeter. Drummond's still leading the NBA in rebounding at 14.9 rebounds per game, while Jackson's dynamism has pushed him to averages of 18.7 points and 6.3 assists per game on the season.
Historically, Al Jefferson's preyed on the young Drummond's inexperience with his signature array of fakes and various tricks of the trade. And luckily, Jefferson's been fantastic lately, too. It looks like his legs are finally under him and his conditioning is where it needs to be for the playoffs. Over his last four contests, Jefferson is averaging 11 points on 51.3 percent shooting, 6.5 rebounds and two assists per game.
Jackson is trickier to deal with, as his athleticism suggests Kemba Walker should guard him, while his size and strength suggest it should be Courtney Lee or Jeremy Lin. If Lin's hot shooting continues, look for him to get extended run against the Pistons. Head coach Steve Clifford isn't prone to reward one- or two-game outbursts, but he's open to rewarding prolonged trends of good play. And while Lin's minutes have been slowly declining since late January, his recent play is without a doubt enough to warrant more minutes, especially if he's able to guard Jackson effectively.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Bullock sat out the Pistons' last game, which was against the Orlando Magic, with illnesses. No word on whether or not they'll be available tonight.
All in all, the Hornets are more than capable of beating the Pistons. These two teams could potentially bump into one another in the playoffs, and there are few things I love more than a good ol' Clifford versus Stan Van Gundy coaching battle, so I'm all for it. Tip off is at 7:30 p.m. tonight.