When: 7:00 PM EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Outfitting: Hornets — Association (white); Wizards — Icon (red)
CHA: LaMelo Ball (left ankle sprain), OUT; Gordon Hayward (fractured left scapula), OUT; Cody Martin (right knee surgery), OUT; Dennis Smith Jr. (left ankle sprain), OUT.
WAS: Rui Hachimura (right ankle soreness), OUT; Delon Wright (right hamstring strain), OUT.
The Charlotte Hornets return to action after three days off as they begin a three-game home stand with a matchup against the Washington Wizards.
Coming into tonight’s contest, the Wizards have lost four of their last five games since narrowly beating Charlotte, 106-102, back on Nov. 20. Bradley Beal has been playing like an All-Star this season and Kristaps Porziņģis recently dropped a career-high 41 points against Minnesota before following that performance up with 27 points and 19 rebounds in Wednesday night’s loss to Brooklyn. Kyle Kuzma is averaging north of 20 points per game (20.6) for the first time in his career. The only problem — Washington hasn’t gotten more than a couple crumbs of production from any other player.
Rui Hachimura (who has been injured since Nov. 18) is averaging 11.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, but other than him, no other Wizard scores more than nine points per game. Recent draft picks Deni Avdija and Corey Kispert have performed well within their roles, but Avdija hasn’t been afforded the freedom to expand and experiment with his game while Washington is trying to compete for a playoff spot and Kispert’s ceiling is only so high given he’s already 23 years old. Two-Way player Jordan Goodwin has been featured heavily in the rotation over rookie lottery pick Johnny Davis, who has spent most of this season with Washington’s G League affiliate, the Capital City Go-Go.
The Wizards are .500 through 22 games with a -1.2 net rating, ranking 21st in the league. For years, the Wizards have been an average team with a great player (Beal/John Wall) and a few good players, but lacked the depth in supporting talent to be a real threat in the East. With Beal’s recent extension containing a no-trade clause and Porziņģis holding a player option after this season, it’ll be interesting to see if Washington’s front office makes a pivot towards the future in any way or if they keep pushing to finish between sixth and 10th in the conference.
Having three days off didn’t do anything to alleviate Charlotte’s injury woes with all four players remaining out tonight. We should see the same starting lineup we’re used to during this stretch, though Terry Rozier will slide in for Théo Maledon after missing the game against Boston with an illness.
The last time the Hornets played a basketball game, it went poorly even though they shot well as a team and Jalen McDaniels scored a career-high 24 points. They’re not up against the best offense in NBA history this time around, which should help. If this ship isn’t righted soon, which will be determined in large part by the health of Ball (and Hayward, to a lesser extent), whatever mathematical probability of qualifying for the playoffs/play-in tournament remains will vanish.