When: 7:00 p.m. EDT
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets suffered another close loss on Saturday night on the road against a really good Philadelphia 76ers team. Kemba Walker did score 37 points, but the Sixers defense held him to 11/31 shooting from the field and 3/15 from downtown. Even then, the Hornets managed to keep it close, but they couldn’t get over the hump. Of their four losses, three of them have come by two points or less. However, their one close win came against their opponent tonight, the Miami Heat.
The two teams met for the first time this season 10 days ago in Miami. As mentioned earlier, this was the only close win for the Hornets this season. It was a 113-112 victory that was decided by a Walker free throw with 0.5 seconds remaining in the game. He then made a smart play - intentionally missing the second free throw so that the Heat wouldn’t get a chance at a good shot. While Charlotte did manage to win, they blew a 26 point lead in the second half.
Miami has one of the most balanced scoring teams in the NBA and one of the best coaches in Erik Spoelstra. Josh Richardson continues to lead the team in scoring at a shade under 20 points per game. Goran Dragic continues to be solid at the point guard position and was a first-time all star last season. Future hall of famer Dwyane Wade continues to provide veteran leadership and Hassan Whiteside (who is from Gastonia, a town right outside of Charlotte) has been dominant on the glass - averaging nearly 15 rebounds and three blocks per game.
Outside of the brilliance of Kemba Walker, it has also been a balanced scoring effort on the Hornets side as well. Jeremy Lamb and Malik Monk are averaging over 11 points per game, but they haven’t shot the ball efficiently. While Nicolas Batum’s numbers may not suggest it, analytics suggest that he has positively impacted the team. As a team, the Hornets have to defend well against this tough and well-coached defense of Miami.
Overall, this game between two Southeast Division rivals should be another close one that comes down to the final possession. The Heat were expected to win against the Sacramento Kings, but were shockingly run off the floor by De’Aaron Fox, Willie Cauley-Stein and company to the tune of a 123-113 home loss.
Spoelstra’s team will come out very focused on the defensive end of the floor after allowing the Kings to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field. We will see if the Hornets can pick up another crucial, early season victory against the Miami Heat at Spectrum Center.