It has been an exciting start to the 2018-2019 Charlotte Hornets season. A lot is new, though some are the same. The new part is an improved bench, a lethal offense, and wacky yet effective lineups. Losing in close games and hovering around .500 remains all too familiar. Still, this feels different.
Kemba Walker has never been better. The Captain is averaging 28 points on 46% shooting from the field, 40% from three and 5.8 assists per game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looks like a new player, playing more time at the four and the five coming off the bench. His box score numbers look the same but look closer and he is posting career highs in true shooting percentage, assist ratio, rebound ratio, and player efficiency.
Then there is Malik Monk who in his second year looks much improved. Monk is second on the team in scoring at 13.4 points per game and has improved his field goal percentage from 36 to 41%. Old man Tony Parker has stabilized the bench unit and has shown he still has game. Last week against Miami he was the hero with a 24 point, 11 assist performance. Rookie Miles Bridges continues to impress.
Add it all up, and you have the second-best offense in the league. That’s right! Charlotte’s defense is a little behind at 12, but it is heading in the right direction. This is the last game of Charlotte’s four-game homestand; the Hornets are 2-1 so far.
To make the playoffs these are the games the Hornets need to win. The Hawks are not great, but they are young and dangerous. They are led by their rookie point guard Trae Young, who is averaging 19 points and seven assists per game. He is the real deal. Then they have wings like Kent Bazemore and Taurean Prince who can fill it up in a hurry.
The key on offense will be to protect the ball. Atlanta does not have a lot of defensive strengths, but one of them is forcing turnovers. They rank ninth in the league in that department. That ignites their transition offense, and that is where they are at their best, ranking 13th in the league. They are first in pace, so expect this game to be up and down.
Charlotte should have the advantage in a couple of areas. The Hawks turn the ball over more than anyone in the league outside of Phoenix. Nicholas Batum, Kemba, Jeremy Lamb, and Tony Parker need to be active in forcing the young Hawks into mistakes. Atlanta is also a weak rebounding team on both ends; again the Hornets should have the advantage.
Like the Cleveland game, Charlotte should win but will have to play with high energy to do so. You can’t let a young team hang around for too long. Against Cleveland, Charlotte forced their will in the 3rd quarter. In that game both Jeremy Lamb and Willy Hernangomez had their best games of the season and gave the Hornets great energy, let’s see if that continues.
This should be a fun one, tune in at 7ET to see if the Hornets can climb past .500 and go to 6-5 against the division rival Atlanta Hawks.