When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
CHA: LaMelo Ball: out (health and safety protocols), Mason Plumlee: out (health and safety protocols), Jalen McDaniels: out (health and safety protocols), Ish Smith: out (health and safety protocols), Terry Rozier: out (health and safety protocols).
SAC: Richaun Holmes: out (eye).
In the midst of a two-game slide that can be attributed mostly to a COVID outbreak within the team, the Charlotte Hornets host the Sacramento Kings, who have gone 5-3 since firing Luke Walton as head coach on Nov. 21 and replacing him with Alvin Gentry.
The first time these teams faced off this season might’ve been Charlotte’s worst game of the year, considering they were fully healthy at the time. The Kings are the NBA’s 11th-best offense (109.8 offensive rating) and 25th-best 3-point shooting shooting team (33.1 percent), and they scored 41 points in the first quarter and made 22-44 threes (50 percent), which is still a season-high for them. On top of that, the Hornets were out-rebounded 56-28 as Richaun Holmes hauled in 20 rebounds to go with his 23 points. Not their finest hour.
Charlotte is still without five players including all three point guards, but they’ve played very well considering the circumstances (and results). Miles Bridges, Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre Jr. have taken turns carrying the offense and James Bouknight, Cody Martin, Nick Richards and JT Thor have all stepped up and played valuable roles on short notice. The Hornets have embraced their (underrated) halfcourt offense more without LaMelo Ball, but their efficiency has not dropped off in spite of losing their offensive engine plus their best shooter in Rozier.
De’Aaron Fox is leading the Kings with 20.6 points per game — with that said, he’s struggling through a career-worst season so far. His 27.6 percent-mark on 3-pointers is a career-low and he’s shooting 43.8 percent from the field, the lowest percentage since his rookie year. Per Cleaning The Glass, Fox is shooting 60 percent at the rim after shooting 69 percent last season, also the lowest mark since he was a rookie. Those numbers have jumped up under Gentry’s leadership, however. Hopefully the coaching change can help turn his season around.
The general plan for the Hornets remains the same as it’s been the last three games; ride Bridges, Hayward and Oubre in hopes that they shoot well enough to give the team a chance to win the game down the stretch. Holmes’ absence should mitigate Charlotte’s rebounding disadvantage with Ball and Plumlee sidelined.
Down four rotation players, it’s ever more important that the Hornets play hard, and they definitely have been so far — fans can only expect so much from players who are a.) playing very heavy minutes in the absence of three starters, or b.) in the rotation for the first time in their careers. NBA basketball is hard and COVID-19 makes it harder. The Hornets have made a valiant effort in the last week.