When: 7:30 pm EST
Where: Smoothie King Center; New Orleans, La.
How to watch: ESPN, Fox Sports Southeast
The Charlotte Hornets will make their annual appearance in a nationally-televised game tonight as they take on the New Orleans Pelicans in the final game of their road trip.
Obviously, the big story here is LaMelo Ball and Lonzo Ball playing against each other in the NBA for the first time. They haven’t shared a court together since they both played at Chino Hills high school in 2015, so this matchup has been a long time coming. LaMelo comes into the game as one of the hottest rookies in the NBA, averaging 15.6 points, 6.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.8 steals in the last five games on 36.1 percent from beyond the arc while averaging just 1.8 turnovers a night.
Nothing has been announced yet, but there is a non-zero chance LaMelo earns his first career start against his brother, who is posting 13.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game himself. Lonzo hasn’t shot well to start the year, but his 44.4 percent mark on pull-up 3-point attempts is a sign that it could round back into form after he developed into one of the league’s best 3&D playmaking guards last season.
There was a bit of turnover in New Orleans over the offseason. They traded Jrue Holiday to the Milwaukee Bucks for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and a bevy of future draft picks, and then flipped Hill and some salary filler to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Steven Adams. Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor walked in free agency and general manager David Griffin replaced them with Wenyen Gabriel and former Hornet Willy Hernangomez. They also drafted Kira Lewis Jr. 13th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Steven Adams is coming off of his first career triple-double (10/11/10) against the Thunder on Wednesday, though the Pelicans did drop their second-straight game. So far this season, Brandon Ingram is averaging 24.9 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game on 46.3/37.0/84.6 shooting splits. The only other players in the NBA with those per-game numbers are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Dončić and Nikola Jokić—pretty good company.
Zion Williamson has gotten off to a rough start, by his standards. 21.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per game on 55.9 percent shooting is good, but he’s recorded 22 turnovers to nine assists so far and is just 0-for-2 from long-range. Per Cleaning The Glass, 78 percent of his attempts are coming at the rim, but he’s converting on only 58 percent of those attempts, landing him in the 23rd percentile in the league. Not that I’ve watched much of the Pelicans this year, but the lack of spacing in a Bledsoe/Williamson/Adams lineup trio can’t be helping Zion get open looks in their halfcourt offense.
New Orleans has a light injury report; JJ Redick (right knee contusion) and forward Nicolo Melli (personal reasons) are listed as questionable.
The Hornets played an all-around good game their last time out against Atlanta. Hopefully, Gordon Hayward’s momentum from his career-high 44-point game will carry into tonight and LaMelo will continue to provide a spark off the bench. After two DNP-CDs in the back-to-back versus the Philadelphia 76ers, Cody Martin returned to the rotation on Wednesday night, playing 11 minutes and tallying two points and two boards. James Borrego spoke of “lineup changes” after the second loss to the Sixers, but inserting Cody Martin into the rotation in Jalen McDaniels’ place is not what I expected.
Cody Zeller (left hand fracture) is listed as out for the Hornets tonight. Nick Richards (COVID-19 protocol) will be available after missing a game.
We can only hope to make a good impression in the only national TV game the Hornets will get all season, but that doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Given the nature of the 2020-2021 Hornets, we’re due for an absolute stinker tonight coming off a nice win, but until proven otherwise we can assume that LaMelo is going to go out there, lead the Hornets to a ‘W’ and show up his big brother in the Battle of the Ball’s.