When: 8:00 pm EST
Where: Toyota Center; Houston, TX
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Earlier in the season, our Hornets liked to make an absolute mess of the first quarter/half, and then finish strong towards the end of the game. It seems as if the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction in the last month or so, as the Hornets are now a first-quarter team that makes an absolute mess of the second half. Such is life.
The Hornets are gonna need to find a way to piece together a complete game in order to hang with the Rockets. After going 4-7 during a rough 11-game stretch, they’ve won back-to-back games over the Mavericks (sans Luka Doncic) and the Pelicans. Even with James Harden struggling mightily, the Rockets are still 5th in the West. Harden put up ghastly shooting splits of 35.5%/27.5% on his usual high-volume in January, though Russell Westbrook picked up some of the slack, scoring 32.5 points per game shooting 52.2% from the field.
But, guess what? The Hornets’ injury luck is going to help them out again. Russell Westbrook (thumb) is doubtful for tonight’s contest, while Clint Capela (heel) won’t be available for Houston. Austin Rivers (illness) missed practice Monday, but will likely be able to play.
After missing the last two games, PJ Washington (ankle) was originally supposed to suit up for the Hornets tonight, but his status has been downgraded to “questionable.” Rest until you’re healthy, PJ. The Hornets have nothing but time.
This game becomes a lot more manageable for the Hornets with Capela out. The big man is their fourth-leading scorer at 13.9 points per game, while continuing to be one of the NBA’s most dominant forces on the glass, hauling in 13.8 boards per game (4.3 OREB). He also blocks 1.8 shots per game, good for a 4.8 BLK%. His interior presence outweighs that of Cody Zeller, Willy Hernangomez, or Marvin Williams, and not having him manning the middle will make things a little tougher for Houston defensively. In their last two games, the tallest player Houston has had on the floor is PJ Tucker at 6’6”. Even though the Hornets lack a dominant center, they have a notable size advantage this evening. But, then again, the Rockets won those two games against better teams than Charlotte, so who knows if it’s truly an advantage. The Hornets are the 26th-ranked rebounding team in the league (48.4 REB%), so I guess their size doesn’t help them much in that department.
Another solid night could be in store for Miles Bridges, who has averaged 16.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game along with 45.5%/40%/90.9% shooting splits over the last five games. Most notably, he’s attempted six threes per game over that stretch. If this is the New Miles, I’m ecstatic. The more minutes Borrego can find for him as an athletic, 3&D stretch four, the better. It’s clearly his natural position in the NBA, and the Rockets don’t have many players of his size, speed and strength to defend him right now.
The Hornets are 3-16 in their last 19 games. It would be okay to beat the Rockets, because it probably means that one or two of the young players had a nice game. It would also be okay to not beat the Rockets, because of the whole “draft pick” thing. Either way, as long as they play hard, it’s fine.
P.S. that trade rumor about Terry Rozier last night disgusts me. If the Hornets trade Terry to the Knicks for their umpteenth power forward and a marginally-worse version of Terry in Dennis Smith Jr., I will cry and puke. There is simply no reason to trade Terry right now unless it nets you a cost-controlled young player or some other team loses their mind and gives you a star. Let me know what you guys think too, unless you support the rumor, in which case you should log off of the internet forever. Thank you.