When: 7:00 PM ET
Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
It’s a battle between potential play-in teams tonight. The Hornets sit in the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference while the Pelicans are battling to keep their own tenuous hold on the No. 9 seed out west, despite their lackluster 30-41 record. These two teams just squared off on March 11th and the Hornets won a 142-120 shootout.
Both teams are feeling like every game is a “must win” by now and this game should be a fun battle to watch. The Hornets are coming in hot after winning their last four games. This is a big game for Charlotte whose schedule gets really tough pretty quick. After the Knicks on Wednesday, the Hornets face the Jazz, Nets, and the Nuggets. Other matchups against the 76ers, Heat, and Bulls are still on the docket as well. The Hornets need to win tonight at home.
New Orleans Pelicans overview
The Pelicans have been without Zion Williamson all year which clearly threw a wrench into their plans for this season. Without Zion the Pelicans needed some additional scoring and traded in February for shooting guard CJ McCollum, and he has been fantastic in New Orleans averaging more than 26 points per game and shooting his customary 40% from 3-point land.
In addition to McCollum, New Orleans’ starting five is rounded out by versatile small forward Brandon Ingram, who has been dealing with a hamstring issue and might miss tonight’s game. Ingram averages All-Star level numbers of just over 22 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. Rookie forward Herb Jones, a second round pick in last year’s draft, averages about 10 points per game but plays outstanding defense and produces 1.5 steals and 0.8 blocks per game. Power forward Jaxson Hayes has taken on a larger role recently and has averaged over 11 points and five rebounds over the last month. Veteran center Jonas Valanciunas has been superb this year averaging 18 points and over 11 rebounds per game while also hitting 36% of his 3-point attempts.
The Pelicans bench doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. Former Hornet guard Devonte’ Graham plays about 30 minutes per game with ho-hum averages of 12 points and four assists while shooting just 36% from the floor and 34% from downtown. Graham has been dealing with some hip issues and is currently listed on the injury report as day-to-day. Center Willy Hernangomez, another former Hornet, has been quite good on a per-minute basis averaging about nine points and over six rebounds in 16 minutes per game. Guard Tony Snell, forward Trey Murphy III, and forward Naji Marshall round out the second unit.
How the Hornets can win
If Brandon Ingram can’t go tonight, the key to winning is simply stopping CJ McCollum. New Orleans lacks offensive firepower when Ingram is in street clothes. The Pelicans offensive rating of 110 is 20th in the league, and that number includes a healthy Ingram. Charlotte should be able to just outscore New Orleans in this one like they did 10 days ago in their 142-point outburst.
The one area for the Hornets to do better from their last game against the Pelicans is containing Trey Murphy III, the No. 17 overall pick in the 2021 draft. Before facing Charlotte back on March 11th the rookie had scored double figures just once in 47 games this year, and that was a 12-point outing. Yet somehow when facing the Hornets he dropped 32 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 7-of-12 from the 3-point line. Charlotte needs to account for him this time around.
The road only gets tougher from here for the Hornets, so let’s hope they can pull out a home win against a banged up team with a sub-.500 record.
What’s your prediction for tonight’s game?
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Hornets win easy
Hornets win a close one
Pelicans win a close one
Pelicans win easy