Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets take on Utah Jazz tonight hoping to wash away the bad taste of Wednesday’s, 115-111, loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s Charlotte first matchup against Utah this season, and the first chance to see Donovan Mitchell, the latest Hornets-draft-pick-to-get-away, in person.
Mitchell leads the Jazz in scoring at 18.4 points per game. He shoots an incredible 64.6 percent from within three feet, but aside from long-range 2’s, he shoots under 40 percent from the floor. Given Charlotte’s ability to protect the paint on most nights, Mitchell could be containable, unlike other guards who have the ability to attack the rim and hit outside shots.
Rodney Hood is another solid backcourt player, but shoots just 40 percent from the floor. He’s seen increased minutes following the departure of Gordon Hayward, and has been good, not great. That said, as a 38 percent 3-point shooter, he remains a threat from deep.
The Jazz, however, struggle to score. They are in the bottom third of the league in scoring, and lack a true go-to scorer. But more than anything, they are struggling without star center Rudy Gobert, who has been out since November 11th. He’s reportedly on track to come back this month, but will obviously miss tonight. They’ve remained strong defensively, though, and are fifth in the league in points allowed.
Charlotte has to take advantage of Gobert’s absence. The Jazz are a beatable team, and if they can force Mitchell into having an off-night they should be able to win this.
Of course, getting help for Kemba Walker would be nice. It’s no coincidence that many of Walker’s best games come on nights that few others show up. Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum combined for nine points, and Dwight Howard missed 13 free throws. This is a bad look on any night, but it’s even worse when Walker was praising his teammates in the days leading up to it.
I want to give Charlotte the edge tonight, but this team continues to be unpredictable. My hope is that Wednesday night’s loss proves to be an outlier, much like the recent loss to the Clippers was. We’ll see.
What I’m watching for tonight
- Donovan Mitchell, of course: I like Mitchell coming into the draft. Before Monk fell to the Hornets, Mitchell topped my list. I’m happy to see he’s working out, but hope he has a bad night. As every highlight leaves us wondering what if, we could use an off night from him to ease our minds.
- Was Dwight’s off night from the foul line a fluke? Historically, Howard is a poor free throw shooter, but he’s show improvement this season and it’s been a benefit to the Hornets in man ways. But Wednesday was a disaster. 13 missed free throws in a four point loss? Ugh. Hopefully, he can knock down a few more tonight, and moving forward.
- More Monk? He played 12 minutes against Dallas, largely due to Dallas’ small ball approach. He finished with six points, going 2-for-4 from the field (all from 3). Maybe he misses out tonight (his defense wasn’t good), but I think many of us would welcome it. Then again, if that means guarding Mitchell, maybe he should sit tonight out.