What: Charlotte Hornets (24-22) at Brooklyn Nets (33-15)
When: 7:30 pm EDT
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn
How to watch: TNT
Charlotte faces a big test tonight on the road as they take on the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference the Brooklyn Nets. This will be the 2nd meeting between these two, earlier in the season Charlotte was able to walk away with the upset home victory. That meeting was before the James Harden trade and since then the Nets have overhauled their entire roster. This next matchup for the Hornets will be like facing a new team.
The Nets are currently on a three-game winning streak and have won 19 of their last 22 games without Kevin Durant. James Harden has been the main reason the Nets have found success without Kevin Durant being available for this stretch. Harden’s time in Brooklyn has been a large success since arriving in the block-buster trade that involved a handful of players and picks. Harden’s play has vaulted him squarely in the middle of the MVP conversation as he and Kyrie have the Brooklyn Nets rolling.
The Brooklyn Nets might be short-handed tonight with James Harden suffering a hamstring injury in their last game against the Houston Rockets. As of right now the Brooklyn Nets have Harden listed as questionable for tonight’s game same for sharpshooter Laundry Shamet. With the Nets having championship aspirations and Kevin Durant who’s been out for a month still rehabbing his injury I can see Brooklyn staying on the safe side and sitting Harden for tonight’s game.
Charlotte is going to have come into this game with a defensive mindset of getting stops. If Charlotte can string together stops consistently, they will have a chance in this game to pull out the upset. Although that’s better said than done with Brooklyn sitting as the #2 team in the league in offensive efficiency and #1 in points scored per game. On the flip side Brooklyn’s defense has been poor all season long. The Nets are allowing 114 points per game that’s 25th in the entire NBA if this Brooklyn team has one weakness it’s their defensive intensity.
Keys To The Game
The Hornets are going to have to keep up with the Brooklyn Nets scoring throughout the game and that comes with playing the right way driving, kicking out to the open shooter and converting open shots. The Nets have shown that they will make opponents pay for misses and have quietly become one of the best fast-break teams in the NBA.
Charlotte is at their best when they are playing as a unit as opposed to isolation offense that we see glimpses of during stretches. Charlotte has been one of the top teams in assist per game the entire season they should continue to embrace that, and the offense will have no problem against Brooklyn’s defense. I expect Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham to be key pieces tonight for Charlotte’s offense especially if James Harden isn’t available tonight, after James Harden Brooklyn’s guards do not offer much resistance defensively.
This game is going to come down to who can string together consistent stretches of stops on defense. Even with Harden and Durant likely not being available Brooklyn is still a deep team that can be productive with Kyrie Irving leading the charge. Expect to see a good amount of small ball tonight with PJ Washington and Miles Bridges as Brooklyn starts to phase DeAndre Jordan out the rotation and integrate new addition Blake Griffin.