Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets return to action to face off against the Boston Celtics following a few days off over Christmas break. It is their last home game of 2017, as they embark on a four game West Coast road trip after tonight.
The Hornets are coming off a 111-106 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. While I’ll take any win at this point, it was far from convincing. Milwaukee was without Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Hornets didn’t pull away until late.
Tonight, they match up against a Celtics team that has struggled a bit of late, going 5-6 over the past 11 games. They lost the Washington Wizards on Christmas Day in a game that was close late. The Wizards, however, did a good job of locking down Kyrie Irving and forcing other Celtics players to make shots. They didn’t, and Washington came away winners. Locking down Irving is a key tonight, particularly late in the game. Like Charlotte, the Celtics tend to defer to their star player in the fourth quarter. If Irving can be limited during this stretch, it could give Charlotte a chance.
But again, I go back to what I’ve said repeatedly: Charlotte needs to worry more about themselves. If they haven’t given up on the season yet, show us a solid team exists with this roster. It means other players beyond Kemba Walker have to play well. I’ll zero in on the bench, who have played better of late. The likes of Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky, and Treveon Graham need to continue playing well to match a Celtics bench that is deep (and hurt the Hornets in the last matchup).
Graham could see an altered role if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can’t go. MKG missed yesterday’s practice with an illness, and will likely be a gametime decision. If he can’t go, I’d like to see Graham start in his place. Of course, Stephen Silas could opt for Lamb instead, so we’ll see come gametime.
Re-joining the team is Malik Monk, who played with the Greensboro Swarm yesterday afternoon. Monk finished with 25 points in the win, but attempted 27 shots, including 21 3-pointers. It wasn’t an efficient night for the rookie, but he played 40 minutes, was the focal point of the offense, and had a stretch in the third quarter where he went 4-for-8 from the 3-point line; a stretch that helped the Swarm pull away from the Wisconsin Herd. He may not be involved in the rotation tonight, but it was nice to see Monk get an extended run.
While MKG appears the only new injury development for the Hornets, Boston may be without Jaylen Brown, who is listed as doubtful with a sore right knee. Marcus Morris, meanwhile, is a definite scratch with a knee injury, while Semi Ojeleye is doubtful.
The injuries for Boston could play to Charlotte’s advantage, but remember that the Hornets couldn’t get a win in the previous matchup despite no Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, or Irving, who left with a head injury early on. But that was then, and each game is different. Charlotte has a chance to gain some momentum before heading out west if they can beat the top ranked Celtics. I’ll concede that I don’t see it happening, but I’ll give Charlotte this -- they’ve remained competitive in most of their losses this season. If they can overcome late game issues, they could pull off the upset.
Update (11:22 p.m. EST): The Hornets announced MKG will attempt to play tonight: