What: Indiana Pacers vs. Charlotte Hornets
When: 8 p.m. EST
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC
How to watch: TNT
The Charlotte Hornets were stuck on a spiral towards the lottery, losing game after game — often in agonizing fashion — as the playoff line passed them by. But in winning three of the last four games on their seven-game road trip, Charlotte has kindled the smallest hint of playoff hope.
The Indiana Pacers come into Charlotte fresh off a buzzer-beater win over the Atlanta Hawks, as Slam-Dunk champion Glenn Robinson III hit a three-pointer with less than a second left to propel the Pacers to just their third win in eleven games.
The Hornets are hoping to flip the script on their center woes this season, as Cody Zeller rounds into form after returning from injury. Behind him, they hope the hot-shooting of Johnny O’Bryant III continues, as the 10-day signee went 7-9 for 15 points and six rebounds in his 15 minutes of play Saturday against the Denver Nuggets.
Indiana hopes to turn things around to keep a hold on their playoff seed, but also to hold onto their All-Star forward. Trade rumors swirled around Paul George at the deadline, in part because the new contract extension designed to help small-market teams keep stars may not be available to George and the Pacers. The final month of the season will be an opportunity for George to led his team to the playoffs and make a push for an All-NBA team.
Hosting 12 of their next 20 games at home, Charlotte has a chance to vault back into a playoff picture that hasn’t excelled in its absence. Indiana currently clings to the sixth seed, just a game up on Chicago, which is a game up on Detroit for eighth. All are within striking distance for Charlotte, which has won games in bursts when Cody Zeller suits up.
The answer seems too simple - Zeller is hardly an All-Star player, and Johnny O’Bryant was available in the D-League. Could they truly be the solution to Charlotte’s crippling problems? The numbers suggest it could be true, and the next few games will reveal their accuracy.
Lead as always by All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, it will be the frontcourt that decides the season.