The Charlotte Hornets sit three and a half games out from the final available Eastern Conference playoff spot.
For two seconds earlier this year, the Hornets occupied the top slot — numero uno in the East race. And while no one thought that had any legs, it’s still a surprise to see the Hornets on the outside looking in this late in the game.
The Pacers are who we essentially thought they were. All-Star Paul George will soon be gone, but is playing well in the mean-time. Myles Turner is the future of the franchise, and Big Al, well, Big Al doesn’t do much of anything anymore. God bless that man.
The two teams play tonight in a game that promises to either result in a slimmer of hope of the Hornets, or another nail in an ever tighter-coffin. The five seed is not super realistic for the Pacers, and thus they would like to hold off the likes of Detroit or Milwaukee for the 6th spot.
As far as matchups are concerned, the Hornets have zero people able to guard Turner. Their best shot is to have bigs Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky wear him out on the offensive end, cutting and screening and driving — while subsequently occupying his abilities as a shot blocker. Kemba should have free reign as usual, while the wing match up between Nic Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Paul George promises to entertain, one way or another.
The Pacers are the exact type of team this Hornets group was expected to beat. A team in transition, the Pacers have a combination of young and veteran talent, making them middle-of-the-road wins-wise, but compelling down the road.
The Hornets are only the first thing.
Their performance is average, and the roster is lacking upside. All year the hope has been that the peformance would pick up — all the pieces are in place for homecourt playoff contention, and yet the Hornets find themselves wishing they were the Indiana Pacers.
Hopefully tonight is the night the performance picks up, or else the Hornets will find themselves playing strictly for ping pong balls and prospects.