When: March 10, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
TV: Fox Sports Southeast
Radio: WFNZ 610 AM
The Charlotte Hornets are back to winning basketball games. Winners in three of their last five games, the Hornets are trying to make up some ground at the last minute, chasing a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Charlotte might be looking up the standings, but the Orlando Magic are looking even further up. Despite winning their most recent contest, Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls, Orlando is sitting at 24-41, 4.5 games behind the Hornets in the standings.
Not only does Charlotte have a better record on the season, couple with better recent play, but they have a 2-0 lead in the season series between the two sides. The Hornets and Magic played two games in December with the good guys (that’s Charlotte) winning both matchups.
Heading into this game, it’s unsurprisingly all about Kemba Walker. Walker has led the team in scoring in all but two games dating back to February 13, before the All-Star Game. Kemba has scored at least 26 points, and led the team in scoring, in five straight games. The only other player to lead the team in scoring since that mid-February date? That would Frank Kaminsky.
Of course, Kaminsky is set to miss another 10 days. And he isn’t the only player that is out, as injuries continue to wreak havoc on this unfortunate Charlotte team. Johnny O’Bryant and Miles Plumlee are both supposed to miss Friday night’s affair and Nicolas Batum is probably with an ankle issue.
We know that the Hornets need Kemba and Batum. They’ll also need big games from Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams. Williams is showing a bit of fire lately, going for double-doubles in points and rebounds in two of the last three games. He also has been shooting well from 3-point land, with the exception of the game against the Indiana Pacers earlier this week.
For Orlando, they’ll be looking to push a win streak of their own and finally get a win this season when playing Charlotte. Elfrid Payton will be leading the way for an offense that looks ready to run the floor and push the pace with each possession. That worked well enough on Wednesday as a floor pushing Payton put up a triple-double line of 22 points, 14 assists and 14 rebounds. They also have the recently-added Terrence Ross providing help on the wing, allowing Aaron Gordon to move back into the position he should have been playing all year with the departure of Serge Ibaka.
The Hornets have the upper hand. They’re the better team, the home team and the team playing better basketball recently. It’s getting close to the must-win portion of the season. Charlotte only has 18 games left, including the game against Orlando, and three games behind the slumping Bulls, but also trailing the surging Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat, who dealt the Hornets playoff chances a serious blow by beating them on Wednesday. It’s crunch time – time for the Hornets to get their buzz back.