Where: Spectrum Center: Charlotte, North Carolina
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
The Hornets return to the Spectrum Center tonight to face off against Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets graced the TV screens of NBA hipsters and League Pass addicts last season after Jokic supplanted Jusuf Nurkic as the starting center and the offense went bonkers for four straight months. Charlotte will struggle to match their scoring on the offensive end, so they’ll hope to win with defense.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should help with that. The forward is expected to play in tonight’s game after missing the first three for personal reasons, and the perimeter defense will surely be grateful for his return.
Although MKG is back in the fold, Charlotte will still be short staffed. Nicolas Batum, Michael Carter-Williams, Julyan Stone, and Cody Zeller remain out. Look for Malik Monk and Jonny O’Bryant to continue getting serious minutes and Treveon Graham to see more of the bench.
The Denver offense through three games has failed to match the brilliance it brought consistently last season, and that could be due to the absence of a real point guard in the rotation. It could also just be taking a few games to adjust to bigger roles for Jokic and Jamal Murray, as well as newcomer Paul Millsap.
Their defense, on the other hand, has been surprisingly stingy for a team that ranked 29th in defensive efficiency last season. But again, who knows if that’s legitimate or just small sample size tomfoolery.
Dwight Howard should win the rebounding battle against Jokic, and the defense should be able to stifle the Nuggets while they’re still figuring everything out.
However, Charlotte will need good shooting nights from Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb if they want to get back to an even record. Kaminsky has brought it for two games straight, and Lamb has shown some spiciness off the dribble in the first three games, so there are definitely reasons to be hopeful.
Depth could be an obstacle as well. Denver has a bevy of backups they can trot out to attack the Hornets’ tired legs, and with so many injuries for Charlotte, they’d be wise to do so. That said, Mike Malone has leaned on Jokic, Millsap, Gary Harris and Wilson Chandler so far, so that advantage could remain unexploited. Here’s hoping Mason Plumlee gets a reeealllyy long look tonight.
This is most definitely a winnable game for the Hornets. A few good shooting nights and the normal defensive excellence is all it will take.
Plus, the Nuggets don’t have Giannis Antetokounmpo, so it should at least be easier than Monday’s game.