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Preview: The Hornets look to keep Damian Lillard on ice as they host the Portland Trail Blazers

“Big Game” Dame comes in cold against a Hornets team that can get hot fast.

Charlotte Hornets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (4-2) versus Portland Trail Blazers (3-2)

When: 7:00 pm ET

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

After starting the season 3-0 the Hornets have dropped two of their last three games and are looking to get their groove back. James Borrego’s troops have played four of their last five games on the road and should be able to settle in at home.

Portland Trail Blazers Overview

The Blazers are in the unenviable position of being a low-end playoff team that has been bounced in the first round of the playoffs in four of the last five years. They seem to have wasted most of Damian Lillard’s prime who is now 31 years old and entering his 10th NBA season. Trade rumors have swirled around the reportedly unhappy Lillard for a while now though he recently stated he has no intentions of leaving Portland. That said, Lillard is a consummate professional and he may just be saying the right things to not create even more of a media firestorm.

The Blazers start Lillard at point guard and the six-time All Star has struggled with his shot this year. “Big Game” Dame has hit just 26.2% of his 3-pointers and 37.1% of his field goal attempts this season. Shooting guard CJ McCollum has picked up the slack from Lillard’s slow start by averaging 24.2 points while shooting 44.9% from the 3-point line.

Small forward Norman Powell has dealt with knee issues this year but is sneakily one of the better 3-point shooters in the league. He shot a solid 40.5% from deep in the last three seasons leading up to 2021-22 and this year he’s shooting 53.8% from downtown. Power forward Robert Covington is a complete offensive liability but plays solid defense. Center Jusuf Nurkic is a traditional big who clogs the paint and puts up double-doubles with regularity.

Portland’s key reserves include two young players who are starting to find their groove in third-year power forward Nassir Little (9.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG) and fourth-year guard Anfernee Simons (12.6 PPG, 40.0% 3PT). The rest of the Blazers bench consists of well-known, capable veterans like guard Dennis Smith Jr., big man Larry Nance Jr., and former Hornets center Cody Zeller (man, it’s weird not seeing him in a Hornets jersey).

How the Hornets Can Win

These are the types of home wins the Hornets need to secure early in the season to ultimately land a Top 6 playoff spot at the end of the year. Portland is a good team with playoff aspirations of their own, and this will be a tough matchup.

The key to winning this one will be disrupting Lillard and McCollum from efficiently scoring the ball. Lillard stands 6-foot-2 and McCollum is 6-foot-3, so the Hornets size on the wing can present an advantage. Outside of Terry Rozier (let’s hope he can suit up tonight), most of Charlotte’s high usage wing players stand 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7. Assuming the Hornets rotations allow them to stay in front of Portland’s dynamic guards, Charlotte has the length to disrupt the Blazers two primary scorers.

The Hornets are off to a great start this year. An early home win against a solid Blazers team would go a long way in keeping the momentum rolling.