Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, North Carolina
When: 1:00 p.m. EST
How to watch: Fox Sports South, NBA League Pass
The Charlotte Hornets will hope to end the 2017-18 season with a home win against the Indiana Pacers today.
While Charlotte has two games remaining, Indiana is their only remaining opponent. After today’s game, the Hornets will head to Indianapolis to take on the Pacers in the final game of the season on Tuesday. Thinking back towards the beginning of the season, two straight games against the Pacers might’ve been welcome; after all, Indiana wasn’t projected to be in the playoffs. To the surprise of many, however, the Pacers are not only a playoff team but one that could make some noise as well. Sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference, they are one of the league’s biggest surprises this season.
Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis, the primary pieces of the Paul George trade, have been stellar the season. Oladipo currently averages 23.1 points per game, while Sabonis leads the team in rebounding and field goal percentage.
In a few ways, the Pacers are what the Hornets want to be. They rarely get any media attention (we can relate), yet they could be capable of playing spoiler to the Cavaliers come the playoffs. While not an above average offensive team, the Pacers are one of the better defensive teams in the league. In particular, they defend the 3-point line well, allowing opponents to shoot just 34.7 percent from beyond the arc, fourth best in the league.
That could spell trouble for rookie Malik Monk, who is coming off his best performance of the season. Scoring 26 points, Monk was prolific from beyond the arc, knocking down 4-of-5 from 3. The Magic weren’t exactly the most competitive opponent, but it was still a remarkable performance. If he can do something similar against a playoff caliber opponent, the hype over his potential next season will only continue to grow.
But looking specifically at today, Charlotte will likely need a big performance or two from a couple of players. As a team, though, they must defend better than they have of late. Outside of the game against Orlando, the Hornets have allowed nearly 120 points per game, well above their season average. Even if the Pacers aren’t an elite offensive team, Charlotte must continue to defend as they did on Friday, rather than prior to that.
While the result doesn’t necessarily matter for the Hornets, it will be a special day for the team’s play-by-play radio announcer Steve Martin, who is retiring at the end of the season after 30 years covering the team. Going back and forth between radio and TV, Martin has been the voice of the Hornets from the start, through the Bobcats years, and through today. If there is any reason to win today’s game, it’s for Steve.