Boy is it good to be home.
After an unkind 0-5 road trip, the Charlotte Hornets find the comfort of home with a five game home stand over the next seven days. It’s a lot of games in a short amount of time, but being home is the best bet the Hornets have right now.
Tonight, in an effort to end the current five game skid, the Hornets will host Nicolas Batum’s former team, the Portland Trail Blazers who have been on a tailspin over the course of the last month or so, and have lost 11 of their last 16 games.
The Hornets, now a game below .500 at 20-21, are trying to stay afloat during this tough stretch after getting off to a hot start in the early months of the season. The third seed in the Eastern Conference they held early has now dwindled down to the eighth spot where they are tied with the Chicago Bulls.
Nothing has worked as of late, but defensively has been the biggest downfall for a team that relies so heavily upon it. On the season, they are 7-20 when giving up 100 or more points in a game. While they have proven to stay close with teams as of late in high scoring affairs, it’s not a brand of basketball they are going to win often with.
Tonight, you fear the same.
The Trail Blazers, known for their star-studded back court duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, can run up and the court and score in a flurry. Ranked seventh in the NBA, the Trail Blazers score 107.9 points per game and are ranked in the top 10 in pace as well.
If there’s any positive for the Hornets in maintaining Lillard and McCollum, it’s been Lillard’s recent struggles. Over the past six games, all in January, Lillard has shot only 40 percent from the field, 31 percent from beyond the arc and scored 21.8 points per game, all well below his season averages.
For both teams, the bench play will be vital. Both units have had their moments this season, but struggle to maintain consistency. On the Trail Blazers side, Allen Crabbe has been strong as of late and you know what you’ll get out of Ed Davis, but it’s been the rest of the unit that hasn’t performed as well as expected.
As for the Hornets, Frank Kaminsky III has owned the title of inconsistency this season, whereas Marco Belinelli has been one of the team’s bright spots.
It’s made it hard on both Steve Clifford and Terry Stotts to find compatible lineups to rely upon for stretches this season.
While it isn't time to hit the panic button yet, these next five games will say a whole lot. After all, January wasn’t kind to the Hornets last season before they began their impeccable run to finish the season.
One can only hope the wheels begin to roll soon again.