Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
When: 7:00 p.m EST
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets take on the Orlando Magic tonight looking to snap a four game losing streak. It marks the start of a four game home stretch.
It feels like they are at a crossroads. Enough games remain to turn the season around, but little about the Hornets play over the past month suggests a turnover is inevitable. Even without Kemba Walker the past two games, their problems extend well beyond the absence of their best player.
Still, they need Walker, and it appears he is on track to play. He fully participated in yesterday’s practice, and is listed as probably tonight.
Frank Kaminsky, meanwhile, has a right foot sprain, but will likely play. Julyan Stone’s availability is questionable.
Charlotte’s opponent, the Orlando Magic, is also trying to turn their season around. They were the best team in the Eastern Conference the last time the two teams faced off, but since they have lost 12 of the past 18 games, including a nine game losing streak. They’ve looked slightly better of late, winning two of the past three, beating the Thunder and Knicks.
The Magic are 9th in points per game, and 4th in assists, but they allowed 111.3 points per game, which ranks 28th.
Leading the team offensively is Aaron Gordon, who, after a few seasons of flashed potential, is showing real signs of development. Gordon averages a team best 18.6 points per game to go with 8.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists. Most remarkable, however, is his 3-point shooting, which sits at 42.6 percent. Prior to this season, his season best average was 29.6. As fans of Walker, we can appreciate this significant amount of improvement.
But Gordon’s improvement from beyond the arc could spell trouble for the Hornets, who are allowing a significant amount of 3-point attempts. As Jonathan DeLong pointed out this weekend, Charlotte’s focus on protecting the paint is costing them, as teams are attempting far more 3-pointers than mid-range shots, and as a consequence, the Hornets are regressing on defense. The Hornets need to address this, or Gordon and the likes of Evan Fournier, D.J. Augustin, and Marreese Speights (who all shoot over 40 percent from 3) will punish them.
The Magic are playing the second game of a back-to-back, meaning Charlotte should have more energy. But as we’ve seen the past month, nothing is certain with this team. They should win tonight, but then again, that’s been the case for many games of late. If Charlotte wants to save their season, they can’t afford to drop many more games. The season can’t be turned around all at once, but a win tonight can at least stop them for going the wrong direction, and hopefully set them back towards where they want to be.