The Charlotte Hornets (23-30) suffered a heavy 121-104 defeat last time out to the Denver Nuggets, which snapped a three-game winning streak. Although, that result wasn’t particularly surprising given how much the Hornets have struggled on back-to-backs this season. Kemba Walker, who had been on fire of late, has cooled off in recent games. Nevertheless, he still had 20 points to lead the team, while backcourt mate Nicolas Batum went for 15 points, four rebounds, and five assists. Dwight Howard added 19 points and seven rebounds.
The Hornets will look to bounce back against the streaky Portland Trail Blazers (29-25), who have now dropped three games in a row after winning seven of their previous eight games. They suffered two 20-point blowout defeats in their three-game road trip, including their most recent game against the Detroit Pistons. The Blazers shot below 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from beyond the arc. Damian Lillard was basically the only Blazer who showed up as he dropped 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a losing effort.
Three keys to the game
Home-court advantage - After having a disastrous time on their travels, perhaps a return home is just what Portland need to get back on track. The Blazers have been scorching hot on their home floor, winning their last seven games in a row at the Moda Center.
Battle of the backcourts - Walker and Batum have been playing some impressive basketball over the last couple of weeks. Batum, in particular, will be eager to keep that up as he faces his former team. However, Lillard and McCollum aren’t too bad themselves and they will be eager to exploit a pretty shaky Hornets backcourt defense.
Supporting casts - Those star backcourt duos don’t really know what they’re going to get from their respective supporting casts, though. The wings on show in this game apart from McCollum and Batum are pretty infuriating in their inconsistency. The team that can find the better production from that position in this particular game should be able to get the upper hand.
Matchup to watch
Dwight Howard vs Jusuf Nurkic - To be fair to Howard, he has been one of the most consistent big men in the entire league over the last few weeks. Even though the Hornets’ ups and downs, he has soldiered on and regularly put up double-doubles. His most recent double-double streak was snapped at 12 against Denver, and he will be eager to start another one back up against Nurkic, who has failed to find much consistency this season.
Hornets projected starting lineup
PG - Kemba Walker | SG - Nicolas Batum | SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | PF - Frank Kaminsky | C - Dwight Howard
Trail Blazers projected starting lineup
PG - Damian Lillard | SG - CJ McCollum | SF - Maurice Harkless | PF - Al-Farouq Aminu | C - Jusuf Nurkic
Despite slowing down a bit in his last two games, Walker's numbers over the last ten outings remain impressive. He's putting up 26.7 points and 6.0 assists during that span. Nicolas Batum hasn't been too shabby himself. The Frenchman is averaging 17.5 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists over his last ten, and dropped 23 points, four boards, and five dimes in his first meeting with his old team.
Not to be outdone, Damian Lillard had an all-around performance with 18 points, seven rebounds, and 11 assists against the Hornets in their first meeting. McCollum had 25 in that game, and prior to his quiet 14 points against the Pistons last time out, he had been averaging 26 points and three 3-pointers in his previous six games.
The Blazers should be raring to go for this game. They've had two days off to rest up, practice, and prepare for the visit of the Hornets, who still have their problems. The fact that the Blazers will be at home, where they've won seven in a row, should be even more reason to think they will win this game and cover the 3.5-point spread in the process.
The Blazers backcourt has too much for their Hornets counterparts as they get the 107-99 home win.
This game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Northwest and Fox Sports Southeast - Charlotte. Tip-off is at 10:00 pm Eastern.