When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The average NBA team in 2019-2020 will use 100.3 possessions per 48 minutes. Tonight’s matchup in Charlotte between the Hornets and Denver Nuggets will feature offenses with the 29th and 30th-ranked pace of play in the league; the Nuggets average 97.65 possessions in a game, with the Hornets averaging 96.56 possessions in a distant last-place. We’ll be in for a low-scoring affair this evening unless both teams shoot well above their average.
The first time these two teams squared off was Jan. 15 in Denver, a game the Hornets lost 100-86. Michael Porter Jr., who is averaging 19.8 points and 11.0 boards on 42.9% shooting from beyond the arc per 36 minutes, scored 19 points off the bench to carry the Nuggets to victory. Two-way player PJ Dozier shot 5-7 FG and finished with 12 points, which tied his career-high at the time. The Hornets only broke the 20-point mark in the second and fourth quarters. This was a slow, low-scoring, defense-oriented game, and tonight’s contest will probably not be much different.
Denver is 3-4 over their last seven contests and comes into this game in third place in the Western Conference. They are led by perennial All-Star Nikola Jokic, who is averaging 20.8 points and 10.2 rebounds per game, along with 6.8 assists, 1.2 steals, a 2.24 AST/TO ratio, and an abundance of insanely cool passes like these;
The second clip is absurd. 7-footers are not supposed to have that kind of court vision, game-feel and hand-eye coordination. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson comes down to double him, he reads the floor in 0.001 seconds and fires a one-handed wrap-around dart to Gary Harris, wide open in the opposite corner. Jokic is one of the most-fun non-Hornets to watch play basketball. The man is a wizard.
Jamal Murray is Denver’s second-leading scorer at 18.7 points per game, with shooting splits of 45.3% FG/34.3% 3PT/88.9% FT. Throughout most of the season, Denver’s offense goes as Murray goes. For the most part, they win when he has a solid/good night and they lose when he plays poorly. His 3-point shooting has dropped off a cliff since his second and third seasons, as well, on nearly the same volume. Here’s a very interesting statistical comparison that should make one appreciate Terry Rozier;
I tweeted this out a while ago, but here's an update on Murray vs. Rozier this season. Still pretty similar. pic.twitter.com/hI50qU9V1D— Chase Whitney (@chasewhitney_) March 5, 2020
It appears as if Murray and Rozier are eerily similar players this season, even when advanced stats are thrown into the equation. One is 23 years old on a five-year, $170M max contract, and the other is 25 years old on a three-year, $58M contract. Rozier doesn’t seem so “overpaid” now.
The Nuggets signed former Hornet Troy Daniels to a minimum deal yesterday afternoon after he was released by the Los Angeles Lakers and cleared waivers. Denver also bought out guard Jordan McRae on Mar. 1, who has since signed with the Detroit Pistons. Daniels is probably nothing more than emergency shooting depth for the Nuggets, but playoff teams need those kinds of players, so good on them.
The Hornets injury report lists Devonte’ Graham (left ankle soreness) as questionable for this evening after missing Tuesday’s game versus San Antonio.
The Nuggets list former Hornet Noah Vonleh (ankle) as questionable, while two-way rookie Bol Bol (foot) will be out. Bol has not seen action since playing in the G-League with the Windy City Bulls on Dec. 14, 2019. Daniels is listed as questionable, due to his signing with the team so recently.
The Hornets played much better without Devonte’ on Tuesday than they did in the first game he missed, with Rozier, Miles Bridges and PJ Washington all topping 15 points. Devonte’ has played the most minutes on the team this season and barely had a break over All-Star weekend, so “load managing” him at this point in the season makes sense. An 82-game schedule is a grind and Devonte’ needs to stay healthy. There’s no point in gassing him in early March when the Hornets have a near-0% chance to make the playoffs. If he plays tonight, that’s fine, but if not, that’s also fine. If he’s out, prepare for some Joe Chealey minutes. It would be pretty cool if James Borrego let Cody Martin run the point as the backup to Rozier, though. Just sayin’.
It’ll be interesting to see who Borrego starts at the center spot to match up with Jokic. Cody Zeller makes the most sense because of his size and mobility, but he’s not as good of a one-on-one post defender as Bismack Biyombo. Perhaps Willy Hernangomez will see big minutes when Mason Plumlee is on the floor.
Over the last seven games, the Nuggets are 27th in the NBA with a 116.6 DEFRTG, compared to the Hornets, who are ninth with a DEFRTG of 107.5. Over the entire season, though, the Nuggets are 12th and the Hornets are 24th. Charlotte is playing well as of late, and Denver is not. We’ll see which end of the spectrum prevails this evening.