Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass, or while screaming into the void
How quickly fortunes change. Just as the Charlotte Hornets looked to be turning their season around, they’ve lost four games in a row and are nearly right back where they started before previously winning five in a row. As they host the Brooklyn Nets tonight, Charlotte will hope to avoid breaking even instead pick up win 29.
And look, they should. The Nets are terrible, with just 20 wins all season, and just one win in their last 10 (which, by the way, was against the even worse off Bulls). The Hornets won the previous match-up 111-96, and there should be no doubt that they get a similar result tonight. Brooklyn allows 110 points per game, and teams shoot nearly as well against them from 3 as they do against the Hornets. The Nets are a bit better at defending the 2, but if Charlotte can connect from deep, I imagine this game turns out well for the home team.
Even with a win, Charlotte’s playoff chances have dramatically sunk. They trail Milwaukee by six games for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference. To reach the magic 41-41 record that some believe would be enough to get in means Charlotte would have to go 13-4 the remainder of the season. With a five game road trip looming, that type of finish doesn’t look likely.
So with the playoffs about out of the picture, I’m only focusing on one player tonight: Malik Monk. The rookie is back in the rotation due to a shoulder injury to Michael Carter-Williams. MCW has no timetable to return, and he may need shoulder surgery. It’s shame Monk is back in the rotation at the expense of MCW’s health, but it does provide the rookie with the extended run that many have called for.
We got our first glimpse on Tuesday, and Monk wasn’t that bad. Playing 16 minutes, Monk finished with 9 points on 3-for-10 shooting. He still chucked up about three too many 3-pointers, finishing 1-for-6, but there were small signs of growth from a decision making standpoint. On one possession, Monk passed up a semi-open 3-pointer to dump the ball down to Cody Zeller for an easy layup, nearly causing me to jump off my couch and yell, “That’s my rookie!” Sure, I’m being dramatic, but a large part of Monk’s offensive struggles stem from a lack of awareness on making the right play. Steve Clifford simplified things for him Tuesday, allowing him to drive and kick or attack the hoop more. He certainly looked more comfortable, and I didn’t see him get beat nearly as easily on defense as well. Tonight, he has an opportunity to play against a less-than-stellar bench unit. It’s a chance to continue growing and hopefully show more of the promising signs we saw from him earlier in the regular season and in preseason.
Even if the playoffs are out of the picture now, it serves the Hornets no good to lose tonight. Hopefully Kemba Walker has a bounce back game, and Dwight Howard continues to dominate the paint.