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The Charlotte Hornets entered the shortened week fresh off of ending the first half of the season in impressive fashion by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves by 32 points. They were able to finish their west coast road trip with a 3-3 record.
During the two-game stint after the All-Star break, the Hornets returned home to fans at the Spectrum Center and beat the Detroit Pistons and Toronto Raptors to raise their record to 19-18 on the season. So with an upcoming four-game week ahead including three games on the west coast, what did we learn about the Hornets this week and what should we look for over the next seven days?
Charlotte played both games last week with no player on the injury report, giving a full team at head coach James Borrego’s disposal. It had nearly been about a month since they’ve had everyone in Charlotte together and available.
Borrego was also able to get rookies Vernon Carey Jr., Nick Richards and Nate Darling into the game on Saturday night to play a few minutes. Even though neither of the three are in the rotation at the current moment, any time on the court is very valuable in a year where there is not as much practice time as normal.
The first quarter defense has been an on-going problem all season long although the Hornets have played well offensively. Last week, the Hornets prevented both teams from shooting over 40 percent from the floor and forced them both to shoot a combined 6-25 from beyond the arc in the opening quarter.
Saturday night’s turnovers were a real problem. After having nine in the entire game on Thursday night, the team had eight in the second quarter against the Raptors alone and 28 for the entire game. Yes, they won by 10 and they were up the entire game, but if they would have committed 28 turnovers against the Raptors with a roster at full strength, the outcome would not have been the same.
The Week Ahead
Charlotte will end their brief three-game home-stand on Monday against the Sacramento Kings, a team that they beat on the previous road trip on Malik Monk’s basket at the end of the game. After Monday’s game, the Hornets start their final West Coast road-trip against the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers in a four-day period starting on Wednesday.
A dream scenario would be to win the game against Sacramento and at least one of the games against three of the premier teams in the Western Conference. The hard part is Charlotte has to play in the altitude in Denver on Wednesday and then play the LeBron James-led Lakers on the next night at Staples Center. Saturday’s game against the Clippers is difficult because they have the Western Conference’s second-best home record at 12-6.
The worst-case scenario is to lose all four games, which could potentially lose all of the team’s momentum and put the team in some kind of danger as the trade deadline gets closer.
Having the home crowd will allow the Hornets to finish the home-stand undefeated as they should defeat the Kings. If they have a chance to win one of the three games on the road this week, winning in Denver is their best chance due to the fact that they can run with the Nuggets.
Beating the Lakers on the backend of a back-to-back should prove to be difficult. The Clippers’ size with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the wings should create too many matchup problems for a Hornets team playing its third game in four nights. Charlotte finishes the week 1-3