The Charlotte Hornets will host the Sacramento Kings on Saturday night at Spectrum Center, in a battle of two teams who seem to be having tough times finding their rhythms. The expectations for these two teams were considerably different at the start of the season. Many folks, especially those in Charlotte, expected the Hornets to be one of the top teams in the East. Nobody, however, thought the Kings would be anywhere near the playoffs, but here we are in late January, with the Hornets below .500 and the Kings fighting for a playoff spot. Expectations aside,, these two ball clubs seem to be playing a similar type of basketball lately--and it’s not very good.
Sitting at 18-28 on the season, the Kings are just 4-11 in their last 15 games. Charlotte on the other hand hasn’t been much better (or better at all) as of late, losing their last three games and seven of their last ten.
Horrible luck has also fallen on the Kings recently, as Rudy Gay, the second best scoring option and player on the team, fell down on a baseline drive in the third quarter of a game last Wednesday, rupturing his achilles. This is an awful break for both Gay, who is year after year a consistently great scorer in the league, and the Kings, who need all the scoring help they can get.
The most effective strategy the Kings have is to feed their superstar. Sacramento is led (I use that word cautiously) by one of- if not the best frontcourt players in the league in Demarcus Cousins. Averaging 27.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game, Cousins is an absolute force.
The Hornets are very familiar with what Cousins can do. He has had some great games against Charlotte, and that is putting it lightly. The last time these two teams met, Cousins absolutely dominated, scoring 56(!!) points on 21 of 30 shooting, in one of the most impressive individual performances in recent NBA memory. Charlotte actually went on to win that game, however, which goes to show you how much weak the Kings roster is outside of Demarcus Cousins.
Demarcus Cousins needs no help at all in being a monster, but he might actually get some. Cody Zeller, the starting center for the Hornets and best defensive big man in the Hornets rotation, has missed the last two games with a quad injury, and is listed as ‘questionable’ for tonight’s matchup. Zeller not being available would create matchup nightmares for the Hornets, and Cousins may have a field day.
While things aren’t going well for the Kings currently, that’s not to say they aren’t playing for anything. Despite their recent struggles, Sacramento is just 2.5 games back of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. They haven’t made the playoffs in 10 years, so the Hornets- a team who has experienced playoff droughts of their own- should expect this team to come out hustling, as any team with postseason in their sights for the first time in a long time would.
With all that being said, this should be a winnable game for the Hornets, who desperately need a bounce back victory after a frustrating and downright confusing loss to the New York Knicks last night. Charlotte has been wildly consistent all year, and a home win against a good team would be a good way to try and get back on track, especially after some extremely poor performances.