What: Charlotte Hornets (29-28) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (39-18)
When: 7:00 p.m. EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
CHA: Gordon Hayward: out (ankle), Cody Martin: out (left ankle/Achilles soreness), Jalen McDaniels: out (left ankle sprain).
MEM: Santi Aldama: questionable (right foot soreness), Dillon Brooks: out (left ankle sprain), Yves Pons: out (left thigh soreness), Killian Tillie: out (back soreness), Xavier Tillman: out (right thigh soreness).
The Charlotte Hornets ended a six-game losing streak last night in Detroit, and tonight they have a chance to end a five-game skid at the Spectrum Center against the Memphis Grizzlies.
All-Star point guards LaMelo Ball and Ja Morant square off for the second time this season, with the Hornets taking a 118-108 win on Nov. 11. Memphis comes into this one winners of four-straight, averaging a league-leading 130.5 points, 57 rebounds and 30.3 assists per game in that stretch. They’re also second in offense and sixth in defense. The Grizzlies have the third-best winning percentage on the season, but they’ve been especially good in the last few weeks.
On top of Morant becoming one of the NBA’s top point guards, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. have been excellent secondary and tertiary options. Bane scores 17.6 points per game, shooting 41.2 percent on his 6.8 3PA and possesses the strength and quickness to defend multiple positions. Jackson’s efficiency from deep has lagged this season, but his 2.2 blocks per game (tied for fifth in the NBA) are a career-high.
Steven Adams is scoring the fewest points per game (6.8) since his rookie year, but he’s still Steven Adams. His 9.6 rebounds lead the Grizzlies and a rebounding percentage of 19.3 ranks sixth in the NBA among qualified players. A few days ago, this was a much worse matchup for the Hornets. The addition of Montrezl Harrell shores up some of Charlotte’s interior finishing and rebounding deficiencies, and he’s made an immediate impact.
It really seems like Harrell injected the locker room with a burst of energy upon his arrival; former Louisville Cardinals teammate Terry Rozier did promptly record his first triple-double as a Hornet in Harrell’s first game.
With three rotation players injured right now, it’s highly beneficial for the Hornets to trade out Ish Smith and a non-rotation member in Vernon Carey Jr. for Harrell and James Bouknight. Smith was solid in his homecoming, but the recipe for winning games early in the season had become stale as teams forced the Hornets into tons of tough threes. Bouknight and Harrell are shot-creators, albeit in much different fashions, being inserted into a lineup that lacked one without Hayward.
Everything looked good against the worst team in the Eastern Conference on Friday. Tonight’s game will be a much better test of the Hornets’ mettle.