The Charlotte Hornets had the best win of their season so far on Wednesday night, taking down Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, 126-121. A lot of the credit for the win goes to Malik Monk who put up 25 points, including 18 in the crucial fourth quarter. They were also able to limit Giannis Antetokounmpo to a paltry 14 points and 13 rebounds, his worst outing of the year. Kemba Walker continued his consistent start to the season with 26 points while fellow guard Jeremy Lamb was solid yet again chipping in with 16 points. Lamb has now had 15 points or more every game this season.
San Antonio have been struggling of late and are on a four-game losing streak. Their latest loss came in the form of a 20-point defeat to the Warriors on Thursday night. LaMarcus Aldridge put up 24 points but did it inefficiently with 22 shots, while young forward Kyle Anderson had one of his better games with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. The Spurs struggled from the perimeter, shooting 7 of 24. Coach Gregg Popovich told reporters that star Kawhi Leonard could return from injury in three weeks in what will be a welcome return for his struggling San Antonio side.
Three keys to the game
Rebounding – Both teams are elite rebounding teams and while the Hornets have one of the best rebounders in the game right now in Dwight Howard, the Spurs do it well as a collective. Whoever can clean up the glass most and give their team first possession will be able to dictate how this game pans out.
Defense – While the Hornets possess one of the better defenses in the league, they gave up 121 points against the Bucks. The Spurs are also traditionally solid in defense yet have given up 100 points or more in four of their past five games. Both sides will be looking to tighten up in this outing.
Shooting from deep – The Spurs are the fifth-worst shooting team from the perimeter this season (32.6%) while the Hornets are currently 12th with 36.8%. Neither side has particularly impressive numbers in this department and if either one finds their range they will have a significant edge.
Matchup to watch
Dwight Howard vs Pau Gasol – Gasol is still contributing at a solid rate for the Spurs, most surprisingly on the defensive end where he averages 1.7 blocks per game. Howard looks like a new man under Clifford and is reminding us all of his Orlando days. Gasol will need to do his best to box out Howard and stop him from dominating the glass.
Charlotte Hornets projected starting lineup
PG – Kemba Walker | SG – Jeremy Lamb | SF – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | PF – Marvin Williams | C – Dwight Howard
San Antonio Spurs projected starting lineup
PG – Dejounte Murray | SG – Danny Green | SF – Kyle Anderson | PF – LaMarcus Aldridge | C – Pau Gasol
Walker has been a consistent offensive force this season, averaging just under 25 points and 6 assists per game. His front court teammate Howard has been monstrous on the boards, averaging 14.5 rebounds as well as 1.5 blocks. Either of these guys are good bets for your fantasy squad for Charlotte.
LaMarcus Aldridge is your most viable option for the Spurs. He’s putting up good offensive numbers with 23.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. That’s almost double the teammate second on their scoring list, which is Rudy Gay with 12 points.
Charlotte are 5.5 point underdogs in this match and are every chance to cover that spread as long as they get big nights from Walker and Howard. The points total is 199 and despite both sides’ leaky defenses of late the under is the better play here.
While the Hornets have been solid so far this season you just can’t look past San Antonio at home. Aldridge’s form and the collective defense of coach Popovich will prove too much for Charlotte. It may not be an offensive shootout but expect the Spurs to still snare this one, 102-94.
Catch this one on league pass, Fox Sports Southwest and Fox Sports Southeast. Tip-off is at 8.30pm ET at AT&T Center.
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