When: 8:00 p.m. EST
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
How to Watch: ESPN
Over the past few seasons, the Charlotte Hornets have lacked in the number of national TV games, and the few they did were often against another small market team or were re-scheduled in favor of another game. It left fans frustrated, clamoring for more coverage and more marquee match ups.
Well, ESPN listened, but the timing couldn’t have been worse. The Hornets are in the midst of their worst stretch of the season, while the Golden State Warriors top the Western Conference at 38-7, and are coming off a last second loss to the Miami Heat that ended with Dion Waiters pulling up in Klay Thompson’s face and knocking down a 3-pointer.
You know the saying, “Don’t be the team to play the Warriors after Dion Waiters beat them in the previous game?” Well the Hornets are going to be that team, and ESPN is going to broadcasting it.
Tonight was going to be tough regardless of circumstances, but Waiters jokes aside, the Hornets could be stretched thin due to injuries. Cody Zeller is questionable with a bruised quad, Frank Kaminsky is questionable with a nasal fracture, and Jeremy Lamb has been “upgraded” to questionable as he continues to recover from an inflamed metatarsal. And let’s not forget Marvin Williams, who suffered a toe contusion on Monday, and while he returned, will likely still be feeling the effects of it.
No Zeller would be detrimental, particularly on defense, where he provides the best semblance of an interior defender on the team. But he’ll be missed offensively as well, where his movement off the ball helps spread the floor.
Frank’s injury comes at a bad time as well, given that he’s started to turn the corner and play better offensively. Specifically, his shooting percentages are way up, as he’s shooting 44.4 percent from the field, and 42.9 percent from deep. That’s good production, and the Hornets need more of that across the team.
On the Warriors front, everyone looks healthy, and unless Steve Kerr sits someone for rest (as he did with Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston recently), Charlotte will face the full squad.
So what’s it going to take to pull the upset? Offensively, a little help for Kemba Walker would be nice. Walker has struggled the past couple of games, but its been coming given the lack of consistent offensive help from others. Teams are zeroing in on him again, as they’ve done every season he’s been in the league, and unless the likes of Nicolas Batum and Williams can shoot the ball more effectively, teams are going to continue focusing on shutting him down.
And it’s not that Batum’s numbers are necessarily down -- he’s averaging 14.3 points per game in January, right at his season average — but he’s shooting just 35.6 percent from the field this month.
A strong defensive performance gives Charlotte their best chance at the upset, however. Before losing to Washington on Monday, Charlotte had won thanks to strong defensive quarters, particularly in the first and fourth, where they have struggled this season. A strong first quarter against Golden State would set the tone, and I’d be more than happy if this game ended 70-69 (though say goodbye to that national TV coverage!).
Can the Hornets win tonight? Its not impossible, as Miami proved two nights ago. They held Stephen Curry and Thompson to average nights, and Kevin Durant went just 1-8 from the 3-point line. If Charlotte makes things difficult for this trio, and manages to knock down a few shots themselves, maybe this doesn’t turn out as bad as I expect it to. But given the circumstances, its going to take a lot.