When: 8:00 PM EST
Where: Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, Okla.
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
After two days off, the Charlotte Hornets will look to bounce back from its largest defeat of the season against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight.
The Thunder have dropped three-straight games, while the Hornets are 2-3 in their last five. In its first full game without LaMelo Ball, Gordon Hayward and Malik Monk, Charlotte lost to the Boston Celtics on the road by 30 points.
Oklahoma City couldn’t make it any more obvious that they’re committed to player development as opposed to wins at this stage. Al Horford will remain with the team but won’t play for the rest of the season as general manager Sam Presti finds him a new home on a contender.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who leads OKC with 23.7 points and 5.9 assists per game on 62.3 percent true shooting, is out “indefinitely” with plantar fasciits in his right foot and will be re-evaluated in mid-April. He had 24 the first time these teams met, and was the biggest factor in the Hornets losing that game, 109-107 on Dec. 26.
Moses Brown, Theo Maledon and Aleksej Pokuševski lead the Thunder’s youth brigade. Brown recently recorded a “20-20 game” with 21 points and 23 boards, and has been a double-double machine since returning from the G League Bubble.
Maledon and Pokuševski are both 19-year-old NBA starters, and “Poku” is a 190-pound 7-footer with guard skills. Think similar Bol Bol, but more effective; he’s put up 20-plus in three of his last four outings with 11 made 3-pointers (44.4 percent) and 10 assists in that stretch.
Luguentz Dort, Josh Hall and Isaiah Roby (concussion) are all going to be out against the Hornets. Darius Bazley (shoulder), Gilgeous-Alexander (foot) and Mike Muscala (ankle) will also miss the game.
Charlotte got absolutely walloped in Boston. That 30-point loss was the largest drubbing they’ve suffered yet this season, and the lack of scoring punch without Ball, Hayward and Monk was readily apparent. Regardless of one’s opinion on how good the Hornets’ young players are, the team just doesn’t have quality depth without three of their best players.
Opposing teams can glue their best perimeter defender to Terry Rozier for the next two weeks and let the rim protector clean up any mistakes, which there may not be many of given the Hornets have no shot creators/rim pressure outside of Rozier and Devonte’ Graham right now. At least two of Miles Bridges, PJ Washington and Cody Zeller will have to be terrific offensively each night for the Hornets to keep up with the competition these next few weeks.
Ball (wrist), Hayward (right foot sprain) and Monk (ankle) are all out for the Hornets.