The Charlotte Hornets are definitely going to through a dry spell. It’s only fitting that on their journey from Oakland, the site of their most recent defeat at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, they had to cross the Great Salt Lake Desert to get there.
Charlotte is currently losers of six straight. Two of those games were against the Warriors, but that doesn’t make it hurt any less. The Hornets are currently sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference, even on record, but trailing the Detroit Pistons for the final playoff spot at 23-27.
It’s going to be a mixed bag of confidence and frustration heading into Utah. Charlotte won the matchup between these two teams earlier this season, a game played in North Carolina. This is the second and final matchup between these two teams and the Hornets would like to sweep the season series, snap a six-game losing streak and get back into the playoff picture where they belong.
It's going to be very difficult to do that.
Charlotte is the road team, the Jazz are good, and injuries, oh, the injuries. Kemba Walker is questionable with an illness, so the Hornets are already facing the possibility of a matchup where they will be desperate for a win sans their All-Star point guard. Then backup guard Ramon Sessions tore his meniscus. He’s done for a while, to put it mildly. Cody Zeller will be out for the game.
Did you happen to hear that both Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert were traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Mason Plumlee? I think that’s the right Plumlee, hard to tell. That means Frank Kaminsky is going to start at center against Rudy Gobert. I’ll give you a moment to process that.
Charlotte might be without Walker, Sessions and Zeller with no more Hibbert or Hawes on the team. It’s entirely possible that Brian Roberts gets the start against George Hill with new signee fresh out of the D-League, Ray McCallum, likely sliding right into some real minutes. He’s on a 10-day contract, but it seems probable that he’ll get another one of those with Sessions on the shelf.
Don’t forget that I mentioned Kaminsky will be matched up with Gobert.
The Jazz have Hill and Gobert, of course, but they also have Gordon Hayward. Hayward, like Walker, received the nod for this year’s All-Star Game. He’s definitely earned the appearance, even in a deep Western Conference, as he is a key contributor to a Jazz squad that currently sits at 31-19, even with the Los Angeles Clippers, in fifth in the Western Conference.
Derrick Favors is expected to play, but Utah will be without starting guard Rodney Hood, who is expected to miss about a week with an injury he picked up.
As far as the contest is concerned, the potential matchups between Hill and Walker or Hayward and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are the most exciting, but I keep going back to this whole Kaminsky vs. Gobert thing. Rudy is going to boss him around inside, but Frank has the range to draw him away from the rim, or see a different defender as he ventures to the 3-point line. If he’s on, it makes things trickier for the Jazz. If he’s off, then the rest of the team is going to have that much more of a difficult time getting things going against a superior Utah team.
The Hornets are well-coached and have some talented players up and down the roster. Probability says that losing has to end eventually, so why not on Saturday night in Salt Lake City?