When: Tuesday, December 31, 3:00 pm EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
For the third and final time already this season, the Hornets will have a chance to beat Kemba Walker and his new Boston Celtics squad in Charlotte on New Year’s Eve afternoon.
Two quick things; 1.) 3:00PM is a really early start for New Year’s Eve and I 1000% approve. 2.) Why have these teams already played three times? NBA scheduling is strange. Spread it out a bit, will ya?
The Hornets are 0-2 against the Celtics this year, both of those losses being blowouts. As is the case when the Hornets play most good teams, they don’t really step up to the plate — which is okay, because they’re very young and not one of those “good teams” yet. But, after having already faced off against Boston twice, there’s plenty of film to look at and try to come up with a game plan that keeps this one close. Not that I know anything at all, but I really think they should run Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier PnRs with Cody Zeller or Bismack Biyombo as the roll man to get Enes Kanter out in space. I cannot overstate how bad of a defender he is, and opening up the interior will help beat a team with sound perimeter defense. He’s also a big part of why the Celtics lead the league in rebounding this month (8.8 per game), so let’s get him far away from the basket.
The Celtics are 2-1 since they last played the Hornets in Boston on Dec. 22 (BOS 119, CHA 93), going 1-1 against Toronto with a win over Cleveland as well. In their most-recent game against the Raptors, they lost 113-97 in a game that was never really close and the Celtics shot very poorly from the floor. Boston is a jump-shooting team, so anyone that can force them into misses is bound to have some success against them. That may be hard for the Hornets due to their frequent size mismatches and overall defensive deficiencies, but it is hard to repeatedly beat teams in such a short span of time. Charlotte has that going for them.
The Celtics have returned Marcus Smart since the last time these two teams played, but in turn they lost Jaylen Brown, who did not travel with the team to Charlotte on Monday after falling ill at practice. This is at least the fourth Celtic to miss time with an “illness” this season, which leads me to believe they have Plague bacteria in their training facility. Either way, Brown has been playing at an All-Star level this year and they lose some scoring punch and their second-best defender without him.
The Hornets’ injury report is all clean yet again. They have had a remarkably-good bill of health so far. PJ’s broken finger only caused him to miss five games and other than that, the only injuries have been bruises and soreness. *knocks on wood profusely*
We know this happens every game, and Borrego talks about trying to fix it all the time, but the Hornets can’t afford another slow start in this one. If it buried them against Memphis, it’ll probably bury them against Boston. It’s just very hard to win when you’re essentially only giving yourselves three quarters to play and starting it off down 10 points. Come out of the gates hot, force them into some sloppy turnovers or maybe get someone in foul trouble, and who knows what can happen from there. It’s much harder for a bad team to upset a good team when the good team gets confident because they’re up 25-12 halfway through the opening quarter.