The Charlotte Hornets are back in North Carolina for a Game 3 matchup with the Miami Heat. The Hornets are currently down 0-2 in the series, with the Heat winning both games on their home floor.
So, some bad news: Nicolas Batum is out for tonight's game as he recovers from a rather nasty ankle strain he suffered in the fourth quarter of Game 2. Hornets head coach Steve Clifford hasn't decided on who will replace Batum in the starting lineup, and said he will decide just before the game to keep his options open.
If the Hornets go with Jeremy Lin, they don't completely lose Batum's playmaking, but they do give up a ton of size and some defense. If they decide Jeremy Lamb is their man, it's the opposite — they'd keep decent size but give up playmaking — and that's not much better. They could also slide Frank Kaminsky into the starting lineup, sending Marvin Williams to the small forward spot. This would probably disrupt the rotation least, but Kaminsky hasn't been great in the playoffs so far.
And hey, maybe Cliff decides on something else altogether. It's hard to say. Regardless, whatever decision he makes will have a tremendous impact on the Hornets' success tonight, for better or worse.
Still, the Hornets have other things to improve on tonight. Defensive intensity, as Cliff would put it, has been poor in Game 1 and 2. A quick look at a box score from either game reveals that the Hornets are trading blows with the Heat for most of the game. It's just that in one quarter — the first in Game 1, and the second in Game 2 — the Hornets couldn't guard anything. For the most part, the leads the Heat have picked up in those quarters are the leads the Hornets have been fighting against for the remainder of those games.
Credit Hassan Whiteside, Luol Deng, and Dwyane Wade for making the Hornets' lives difficult on defense. Whiteside's size and athleticism have no peer on the Hornets, though Al Jefferson has performed admirably when called upon. Deng's shooting has been uncharacteristically hot, and he's due for a down game or two. And Wade...well, Wade has been Wade. Even at 34 years of age, Wade is scoring on the Hornets with ease, regardless of whether Lin, Courtney Lee, or Troy Daniels have guarded him.
Luckily, the Hornets are finally at home, where they've won 30 of their 41 games, good for the sixth-best mark in the league. Opponents shoot 2.3 percentage points worse against the Hornets at home, with many thanks going to the home crowd for that. The Hive's been alive and rowdy all season, and Kemba Walker expects the same thing tonight.
And hey, we've got plenty of Hornets fans showing up in our Kardiac Kemba t-shirt tonight. Why not get one of your own? All of the proceeds go to Time Out Youth, a nonprofit in Charlotte.
So @DougBransonSBN is pretty ready for the #NBAPlayoffs to return to Charlotte. Are you? #CHAatMIA @At_The_Hive pic.twitter.com/gROm7uVdjY— Hive Talk Live (@HiveTalkLive) April 22, 2016