What: Charlotte Hornets (28-24) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (31-21)
When: 7:00 pm EST
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA TV
CHA: Gordon Hayward: questionable (re-conditioning), Jalen McDaniels: out (left ankle sprain)
CLE: Darius Garland: out (back), Lauri Markkanen: out (ankle), Collin Sexton: out (knee), Ricky Rubio: out (knee).
The Cleveland Cavaliers will be hosting the 2022 NBA All-Star game on Feb. 20, and third-year point guard Darius Garland will represent the home team in the festivities. Assumedly, Garland was one of the handful of players that beat out LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges for a reserve spot on the roster. Neither will get their chance to prove themselves head-to-head against Garland tonight though, who will miss his third-straight game due to some ongoing back issues.
The Cavs and Hornets are the two best surprise contenders in the Eastern Conference this season. Garland is a worthy All-Star, having developed into one of the game’s best pick-and-roll creators with his shooting range and passing acumen. Evan Mobley may be leading the Rookie of the Year candidate, and anchors the NBA’s no. 3 defense with Jarrett Allen. Kevin Love is one of the most talented bench players in the league. J.B. Bickerstaff has Cleveland well within reach of a top-three playoff seed, as they sit just 1.5 games out of first place right now.
These teams have already matched up twice this year, with each picking up a win. The Hornets won by 11 back on Oct. 22 and the Cavs took a 113-110 win on Nov. 1. Quite a bit has changed for both teams since then, and Charlotte will possibly be without two rotation pieces.
Charlotte’s offense ranks 29th during their two-game skid while the defense remains in the top-half of the NBA. The Hornets have not yet beat the “we need Hayward” allegations. For a team that relies a lot on shot-making, it’s a necessity to have a reliable three-level creator for when shots inevitably aren’t falling, even for short stretches within games. That’s Hayward.