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Preview: The Hornets can only hope their defense doesn’t get scorched by the Suns

Charlotte now has the worst defensive rating in the NBA. They’ll need to do better against one of the league’s premier teams.

Charlotte Hornets v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (16-15) at Phoenix Suns (23-5)

When: 8:00 PM ET

Where: Footprint Center; Phoenix, AZ

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Hornets are finally getting healthy. Let’s hope their defense can finally find a cure for what ails them. Over their last four games Charlotte has given up 125, 115, 120, and 124 points. Their defensive rating of 114.3 is now the worst in the entire NBA. That’s not going to cut it in a road game against the 23-5 Phoenix Suns.

Phoenix Suns overview

After making the NBA Finals last season the Suns have taken another step forward this year. They currently rank ninth in offensive rating (109.9) and third in defensive rating (103.7). This is a balanced, well-rounded team.

Chris Paul continues to wear the crown as one of the smartest, most effective point guards in the league. At age 36 the 11-time All-Star is averaging 14.5 points and leads the league with 10.1 assists per game.

Shooting guard Devin Booker injured his hamstring on November 30th and still hasn’t returned, but he got in a full practice yesterday and may or may not suit up in this one. He has made the All-Star team in each of the last two years and is averaging 23.2 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game, so the Hornets will hope he needs one more game off before returning.

Center Deandre Ayton rounds out Phoenix’s “big three” and averages 16.9 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. Power forward Jae Crowder (9.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG) does a lot of the intangibles and small forward Mikal Bridges (12.1 PPG, 38.9% 3PT, 1.5 SPG) is a decent scorer and good defender.

Small forward Cameron Johnson has been really good off the bench this year, and especially so during Booker’s absence. Over his last five games he has averaged 3.2 3-pointers, 14.2 points, and 5.6 rebounds per game. Center JaVale McGee has been good lately as well, averaging 13.6 points and 10.0 rebounds in just over 17 minutes per game over his last five.

How the Hornets can win

Lets be real: The Hornets have almost no chance of winning this one if they can’t improve their defense. Charlotte gave up 81 first half points in their last game - 81!!! - to the Portland Trail Blazers in a truly abominable effort.

I’ll keep it simple. If the Hornets want to win a road game against one the league’s premier teams, they have to play consistent, effective, tight defense. This feels like one of those games where the Hornets can turn a corner with a solid all-around effort and build on it, or they can give up 135 points and confirm they simply aren’t ready defensively to hang with true contenders.

Poll

What’s your prediction for tonight’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Hornets win easy
    (9 votes)
  • 13%
    Hornets win a close one
    (16 votes)
  • 26%
    Suns win a close one
    (32 votes)
  • 53%
    Suns win easy
    (65 votes)
122 votes total Vote Now