What: Charlotte Hornets (2-4) at Philadelphia 76ers (5-1)
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Wells Fargo Center; Philadelphia, PA
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
We’ll consider this game the NBA equivalent of a baseball doubleheader. The Hornets and 76ers played each other just 48 hours ago when Philadelphia pulled off a 127-112 victory. Playing back-to-back games in Philly will be a good test for coach James Borrego as he matches wits with Doc Rivers, one of the more accomplished coaches in the league. We’ll see which team is able to make the more effective adjustments in Hornets-76ers: Part Deux!
I really am interested to see what adjustments Coach Borrego will make in this one. The 76ers are tied for the league’s best record at 5-1 and a Charlotte victory would be a huge confidence boost for a team that has been up-and-down this season. It has been odd to see the Hornets beat quality teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks while also incurring head-scratching losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Oklahoma City Thunder. A bounce back win over the 76ers would go a long way in showing this team can compete for a playoff berth.
Keys to a Hornets victory
Based on the last game these two teams just played, here are a few areas for the Hornets to address to come away with a series split with the 76ers.
Get Devonte’ Graham cooking: After looking like the league’s most improved player last season, Devonte’ Graham has crashed back to earth in a painful way. Through six games he’s averaging just 9.0 points on 25.0% shooting in 31.7 minutes per game. His outing against Philly on Saturday didn’t do anything to help as he shot just 1-for-10 and scored five points. He did dish out nine assists and continues to create for his teammates, but it’s going to be hard for the Hornets to win if Devonte continues with his cold streak.
Get PJ Washington in a rhythm: PJ had a solid rookie season last year and I truly anticipated him to make “the leap” in Year 2 as two additional distributors joined the team in Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball. But instead of making a leap, so far PJ hasn’t even made “a hop”. If anything, he’s regressing. Over his last three games he has averaged just 21 minutes with 10 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per outing. Washington needs to find his rhythm and get more involved on defense and on the boards, especially when facing a team with the size of the 76ers.
Limit the 76ers role players: We all know Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris are going to drop roughly 20 points each on any given night. In their last game against the Hornets they combined for 58 points on an uber-efficient 22-of-34 (64.7%) shooting. Even if the Big 3 have a big night, the Hornets can still pull out a victory if they limit Philly’s role players. On Saturday Seth Curry shot a blistering 8-of-11 for 21 points while Shake Milton came off the bench to score 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Force more difficult shots: The only stat we need to see to understand why the Hornets lost to the 76ers a couple of days ago is this: Philly shot 59.5% from the field (47-of-79) including 45.7% from the three-point line (16-of-35). You can check out Philly’s shot chart and you’ll see they made just two midrange shots; every other bucket came in the paint or from three.
Given the length of the 76ers, it’s going to be tough to limit shots in the paint so what the Hornets need to do better is contest three-pointers and try to force more mid-range shots. Again, that’s easier said than done, but Philly has too many dominant paint players and deadly snipers to let them shoot where they are comfortable.
It’s been an up-and-down season for the Hornets thus far. Let’s hope for an upswing tonight as Charlotte looks to avenge their recent loss to one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.