Where: Staples Center; Los Angeles, California
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets may not be done yet following an upset win over the Golden State Warriors on Friday. They’ll look to continue any and all momentum gained as they take on the Los Angeles Clippers tonight on New Years Eve.
Friday’s win was shocking. If my preview on Friday was any indication, I had all but given up any hopes of Charlotte turning the season around. And even if I hadn’t, I certainly didn’t think they would kick start a turnaround against the Warriors. But I saw a different team the other night; one that played hard for all four quarters and matched every Warriors run with one of their own. There were plenty of opportunities for Golden State to tip the scales their way, but Charlotte refused. The fourth quarter, in particular, was rather incredible. Where the Hornets typically fold, they built a double-digit lead, and sensing a win within reach, dialed in on the defensive end while winning every 50/50 ball.
It’s the kind of performance I expected more often this season. If this is the start of something, I just hope it isn’t too late.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. For Friday’s win to really matter, Charlotte has to turn this road trip into a winning streak, and that starts tonight against the Clippers. This is final matchup between the teams this season. They beat the Clippers in the last matchup 102-87, which, to be completely honest, I forgot happened. It ended a six game losing streak for the Hornets, and featured a stellar Kemba Walker performance. Walker finished with 26 points, and went 6-for-9 from the 3-point line. Dwight Howard was also effective, finishing with 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Both players have been constants for the Hornets this season, and will be called upon again. But as was the case against Golden State, the rest of the team’s performance could prove the difference. Nicolas Batum, Jeremy Lamb, and Frank Kaminsky; each performed well at various points on Friday and looked dialed in during the fourth quarter. The Hornets need consistency from all three. Getting good performances from each of them tonight would be another sign that maybe the Hornets are turning a corner.
The Clippers are coming off a win over the Los Angeles Lakers. They got Blake Griffin back after missing 14 straight games, and he played well, finishing with 24 points, six rebounds, and six assists. But they may have lost Austin Rivers with an Achilles strain. Rivers is listed as day-to-day, and we won’t likely know his status for tonight until later today. If Rivers can’t go, Milos Teodosic will likely start.
Along with Griffin’s return, the energetic play of Montrezl Harrell proved key in the win. Harrell finished with 15 points and nine rebounds in just 16 minutes. His hard work ethic is becoming a constant for the Clippers, so the Hornets need to pay close attention and not let him get easy buckets at the rim.
The matchup I’m looking forward to is Howard vs. DeAndre Jordan. Jordan leads the league in rebounding at 15.3 per game (Howard is third, by the way) and is one of the most physically gifted centers in the league. Howard will likely relish the matchup (as he appears to have with other notable big men this season) so keep an eye on it.
If Charlotte gained any momentum from Friday’s win, let’s hope it carries over tonight. There’s an opportunity to use the win as a catalyst for the rest of the season. Let’s see how they perform tonight.