What: Charlotte Hornets (11-13) vs. Denver Nuggets (17-7)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
To put it nicely, the Charlotte Hornets have struggled over their last few games. After a 121-104 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night, they’re on a season-long three game losing streak. The competition doesn’t get any easier on Friday for the Hornets as they host one of the best teams in the western conference, the Denver Nuggets. As a matter of fact, going into tonight’s NBA games they have the best record in the west.
The Hornets, despite how inconsistent they’ve been all season, still find themselves in the playoff picture. However, level of concern is starting to creep up for Charlotte especially due to the major slump Kemba Walker is currently experiencing. In a game where this team will be a major underdog, number 15 has to find a way out of this shooting struggle. He’s shooting 37.5 percent from the field in his last 8 games.
With Marvin Williams out of the lineup once again with a shoulder injury, look for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to start. He’ll have a tough assignment whether its guarding Paul Millsap or even Jamal Murray at times. This will be an excellent challenge for MKG and he’s played pretty well all season. The Nuggets are also dealing with a few injury concerns as Gary Harris will be out with a hip injury and Will Barton continues to miss time with a groin issue.
However, the depth of this Nuggets team is very impressive. From Torrey Craig, who is a great success story, to Juancho Hernangomez (the brother of Hornets center Willy Hernangomez), this team has plenty of players that can step into a starters role and contribute. The Hornets have to be ready to see a lot of different looks and lineups from Mike Malone’s team.
Of course, when it comes to the Denver Nuggets, everything goes and stops with Nikola Jokic. The nuggets center is averaging 16.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 7.8 assist per game so far this season. The sensational Serbian has taken the league by storm with his amazing passing skills and basketball IQ. Cody Zeller and the rest of the Hornets front court players will have a tough challenge in containing Jokic.
For a team that hasn’t won a game against a western conference opponent this season, this is not a good match-up for the Hornets. The Nuggets come into this game on a seven game winning streak. However, Denver is playing currently on a five game road trip and this is their fourth game of said trip. This would be a good time to catch a great team like the Nuggets sleeping.
The Hornets have to play their best game of the season to win this evening. Kemba Walker has to play better and there has to be a lot of production from the Hornets front court. The team has to rebound the ball and not give up extra possessions to the Nuggets. In addition to that, the Hornets have to keep turnovers to a minimum. If these things happen, Charlotte will be in a position to win this game. If not, it could be another long night in the Queen City.
While they likely have the advantage in almost every category and match-up on the floor, the Nuggets have been prone to dropping games on the road. This season, the Nuggets are 8-4 on the road and the Hornets will be looking to slow down what has been a well-oiled machine. We will see if James Borrego’s team can snap out of their funk and score a big upset tonight at Spectrum Center.