Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse; Indianapolis, Indiana
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets start the week off with a road trip to face the Indiana Pacers. It’s an important game as far as playoff implications are concerned (if that’s even a reasonable thing at this point) in that the Pacers sit 7th in the Eastern Conference standings, and are, at this point, just barely catchable.
Indiana is led by All-Star guard Victor Oladipo, who is proving to be a more than adequate replacement for Paul George. Averaging 24.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game, Oladipo is playing by far the best basketball of his career. Despite attempting nearly six more shots a game, Oladipo is posting a career best 48.5 percent from the field, while his 3-point percentage is at 39.6 percent, also a career high. He’s going to be a handful to contain, so expect Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to guard him when they are on the floor together.
But this team is more than Oladipo. Five other players — Myles Tuner, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, Domantas Sabonis, and Thaddeus Young — all average at least 12 or more points per game. You know how it feels like the Hornets tend to get beat by the capable, but lesser known players? These five all fit that category. Collison shoots a ridiculous 44.1 percent from 3, while Bogdanovic and Sabonis connect on 37 and 36 percent from deep, respectively. Turner will stretch Dwight Howard out of the paint, which takes him away from where he is most effective defensively. Young, meanwhile, is versatile, and used to punish the Hornets in his Brooklyn Nets days. It’s next to impossible to contain these five plus Oladipo unless the Hornets lock in both with the starters and the bench.
Speaking of the bench, Charlotte may be without Michael Carter-Williams again tonight. He’s listed as questionable, and if he can’t play then Kemba Walker might play all 48 minutes tonight. I’d love to say this is only a joke, but the Hornets don’t have a lot (or any options) past Walker. Malik Monk played terrible in seven minutes last night, and the coaching staff don’t appear to have faith in Julyan Stone either. I’m going to assume they’ll give Monk another chance, but in order to play in the second half, Monk will have to take better shots and play a bit of defense. He showed neither on Saturday, and the bench, who didn’t play well as a whole, suffered greatly for it. I’m rooting for the rookie, but he doesn’t look ready to contribute at this point.
I’m not confident Charlotte can win this. Indiana has come back from 20 point deficits three times this season, and most recently against the Orlando Magic in their last game. They know how to comeback and win close games, while the Hornets do not. If this is tight late in the fourth, it could end up as another close loss for the Hornets. Hopefully they show otherwise.