When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
CHA: Vernon Carey Jr.: out (health protocols), Scottie Lewis: questionable (health protocols), PJ Washington: questionable (health protocols).
DET: Jerami Grant: out (thumb), Frank Jackson: out (ankle), Isaiah Livers: out (foot), Kelly Olynyk: out (knee), Chris Smith: out (not dressed), Isaiah Stewart: out (re-conditioning).
The Charlotte Hornets return to the Spectrum Center to start a three-game home stand with a chance to right the ship and stay above the .500 mark against the Detroit Pistons.
This game marks the first meeting between two of the most promising young point guards in the NBA, LaMelo Ball and Cade Cunningham. Cunningham, drafted No. 1 overall a year after Ball went third, shares a similar expectation to uplift his franchise from the depths of the Eastern Conference as he develops and an intuitive, smart front office surrounds him with talent. So far, so good, as both currently lead their team in points, assists and steals per game.
Cunningham has struggled a bit with efficiency to this point, posting a subpar 46.1 eFG percentage through 26 games. However, that can be partly attributed to a rough start — over his last 10 games, he’s up to 50.6 percent eFG on 37.5 percent from downtown (5.3 3PA per game) while toting an assist percentage of 35. Point guards can take a bit longer than other positions to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NBA considering it’s up to them to orchestrate the offense. The Hornets were lucky to (mostly) avoid that with Ball.
Okay, time for Pistons fans to stop reading. Detroit is decidedly not a good team, and without Jerami Grant, Kelly Olynyk and Isaiah Stewart, they have little support for Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. Thankfully for them, Hamidou Diallo has taken his opportunity and ran with it — over his last five games, Diallo is scoring 23.2 points per night on some pretty absurd shooting splits, per Hornets.com’s Sam Perley:
Only 15 of these 107 FGA were 3PA; Diallo actually shot 51% from the field during this stretch, but just 4/15 from 3P (27%) and 54% from the line (14/26)— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) January 4, 2022
Diallo is an elite athlete even by NBA standards, which could give the Hornets’ lax perimeter defense problems if he gets comfortable. Bey is coming off of a career-high 34 points (8-13 3PA) in Detroit’s win over Milwaukee just two games after setting his previous career-high of 32 points against New York, and his shooting has also come around lately after an early-season sophomore slump.
The Pistons will be without an imposing interior presence as Stewart re-conditions following a stint in health protocols, which could give former Piston Mason Plumlee an even better opportunity to exact revenge on the team that shipped him out in a salary dump last offseason. #RevengeGame.
Detroit has a bottom-10 defense and the second-worst offense in the NBA, are missing their best player in Grant and two centers, and are relying on three players under 23 years old, plus Josh Jackson and Trey Lyles. They’ve won two-straight games against the Spurs and Bucks, but the Hornets should still have a prime opportunity to get back on track following a couple of losses.