Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
When: 7:00 p.m.
Why: Good question
The Charlotte Hornets are stumbling into the All-Star break, having lost 9 of the past 10 games. Kemba Walker looks exhausted, and has played terrible in recent games, and the team has struggled to adapt to Cody Zeller’s absence. While they have played “better” in recent games against two strong Western Conference opponents, the losses continue to mount.
Sitting a game and a half out of eighth place in the East, they will get a chance to potentially make up ground as they host the Philadelphia 76ers in their final home game before the All-Star break.
The Hornets will be without Zeller again, but Philadelphia will be without their star, Joel Embiid. Much like Zeller, Embiid’s inclusion in the lineup makes the Sixers a completely different team, and much of their recent rise up the standings is because him. Having missed the last eight games, the Sixers are 3-5 without him, but have won two straight against Orlando and Miami.
Philadelphia is no longer a bottom dweller of the NBA, but the Hornets should be able to win tonight. However, they will struggle if Walker continues to play poorly. Over the past team games, Walker is averaging just 19.2 points per game, and shooting only 35.9 percent from the field. This poor stretch is coming as Nicolas Batum and Frank Kaminsky (to a lesser extent) are starting to play better offensively. If Walker can regain some of his All-Star form, Charlotte will put themselves in a good position to win.
One thing to watch: The Hornets have started games better of late, but their fourth quarter defense continues to be an issue. If tonight’s game is close, how the Hornets defend late in the game could determine whether they win or lose.