The Charlotte Hornets take on the Sacramento Kings in a late tipoff tonight
Late tips often test my patience. Win or lose, I often hope the game is decided midway through the fourth quarter. But the Charlotte Hornets rarely decide things until the end of the game, so chances are those watching will be up late tonight.
That said, I like the Hornets chances tonight. The Sacramento Kings are struggling, maybe more so than Charlotte. They will be without rookie Frank Mason III, but may have De’Aaron Fox back (he is questionable to play). They have a mix of veterans and young players that split minutes each game, which hasn’t been a recipe for wins. The results so far has upset at least George Hill, who was promised a playoff run when he signed this summer. But that was promised by now Knicks general manager Scott Perry, who left for New York this summer. It appears the Kings, once again, are looking to get a high draft pick.
Road game or not, the Hornets should be favored. They appear more desperate for a win than the Kings, and if they can play more like they did against Golden State and for the first half of the Clippers game, they should be able to win on the road.
Other keys and predictions for tonight
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observe had some quick fire talking points heading into tonight’s game. He believes Kemba Walker will be tested by Hill, who has defended him well in the past:
For whatever reason, George Hill has always performed well against All-Star point guard Kemba Walker. Hill is the only real stabilizing force on the Kings.
Hill is a solid point guard, and his frustrations have prompted trade speculation his future. If he is vying for a move, he’ll be looking to raise his stock as much as he can tonight.
Bonnell also praises former Bobcats point guard Garrett Temple, and the old school post moves of Zach Randolph (who leads the Kings in points at 15.1 per game). He expects a Hornets victory, which would guaranteed them at least a split on this road trip. Under most any other circumstances, 2-2 would be fine, but the Hornets need as many wins as possible. 3-1 has to be the goal. We’ll see if they give themselves a chance at that by winning tonight.
Why have the Hornets lost so many close games? Steve Clifford has an answer.
Gavin Schall from Locked on Nets schools us on NBA Draft pospects
Adam Silver on the future of NBA broadcasts
Steve Clifford reveals why he thinks the Hornets lose so many close games
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Buzzworthy: Another frustrating loss; Graham stepping up
Recapping last night’s frustrating loss; plus, how Treveon Graham is stepping up in the rotation.
The Charlotte Hornets lost another close game last night, this time at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans. Charlotte trailed or led by one possession for much of the game, but come crunch time they couldn’t execute once again.
Dwight Howard, who continues to perform well of late, finished with a team high 22 points, and 16 rebounds. It marks the sixth straight game he’s totaled 15 or more rebounds.
He spoke with the media after the game, stressing that they cannot give up on the season:
"Guys are playing hard. We’ve just got to hold our head. You know, stay positive. The season's not over. We’ve just got to go out there and continue to fight and things will turn around." – @DwightHoward pic.twitter.com/JxjRbCmTQi
— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) January 25, 2018
Howard has the right mindset. The Hornets are playing well, probably the best basketball since the start to the season in fact, but it is the same story over and over when it comes to close games. They are the worst team in the league in terms of winning close games, and there have been too many that have ended in a one or two possession loss.
And last night was so avoidable, but the Hornets went just 18-for-31 from the free throw line, and those misses extended beyond Howard. Twice a Hornets player was fouled attempting a 3-pointer, and in both cases the players made just 1-of-3. Given how important free throws have been for Charlotte this season, they can’t afford missing so many.
Treveon Graham “rising to the occasion”
Bench played has improved of late. Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb are leading the way, playing with more consistency on the offensive end. But Treveon Graham’s inclusion with the bench coincides with the rise in the play.
At The Hive’s Evan Dyal wrote a follow up piece on Graham earlier this week. Dyal made a case for Graham earlier in the season, and following Cody Zeller’s injury and Dwayne Bacon’s regression, Graham got his chance.
Graham is known for his defense, but Dyal points out how well he is shooting as an opportunistic scorer:
What this means is Graham only shoots when he is open, and if he is not shooting he is moving the ball. This has made Graham efficient in limited minutes, and it’s why he is third on the team in points per shot attempt according to Cleaningtheglass.com. Meaning he doesn’t shoot a lot, but when he does it’s a good shot, and it usually goes in.
Attempting just four shots a game, Graham is making 43.5 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from 3. It’s a low volume, but it fits when playing next to Kaminsky and Lamb, two players who need to shoot more in order to get into a rhythm. We’ve seen on a few occasions this where Graham won’t get touches in multiple offense possessions, only to pop up open from beyond the arc and knock down a crucial shot. It’s unlikely he will see an increased role offensive role this season, but it’s a building block for him. Assuming the Hornets re-sign him this summer, he could have a bigger role as he continues to improve his offensive game.
Buzzworthy: Walker snubbed from All-Star team
The 2018 All-Star reserves were named last night, but Hornets guard Kemba Walker was left out
Kemba Walker has played at an All-Star level, but won’t be representing the Charlotte Hornets at this year’s All-Star game. The selections for the 2018 All-Star reserves were named last night, and Walker didn’t make the list. For those curious, here are the Eastern Conference reserves:
— NBA (@NBA) January 24, 2018
I have no qualms about any of these — save for Kyle Lowry. I mean, come on. I understand the Hornets poor record was Walker’s undoing here, but Lowry has scaled his role back significantly last season. His shooting averages remain solid, but he’s averaging just 17 points per game, deferring to All-Star starter DeMar Derozan. More than anything, Lowry feels like the legacy pick. If the Hornets were closer to .500, Walker gets in, but Walker should get in regardless because as is painfully obvious this season, the Hornets struggle to play basketball when he isn’t on the floor. All-Stars represent players that are of high importance for their team (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself this very moment). Walker exemplifies that. Okay, maybe I’m being just a tad bit bias.
Batum happy with Clifford’s return
Since Steve Clifford returned last week, Nicolas Batum has played more aggressively. More shots are going up, and, overall, he looks more involved in the offense.
According to Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, it has a lot to do with the return of Steve Clifford:
That is no coincidence, Batum said Monday morning: Clifford is finding ways to get Batum, the Hornets’ best passer, more involved, particularly early in games. Sometimes that specifically means running plays featuring Batum. Other times, it just means leaning the offense more toward actions that have optimized Batum’s skill set in the past.
Batum is pleased. He says he feels in a rhythm, and he performed well in the heartbreaking loss to the Miami Heat on Saturday (which, yes, was partly his fault for turning the ball over late). Whatever your feelings about Batum, we can agree that he needs to play well, and be more involved in the offense. The ball movement increases as a result, which means better offense for the Hornets.
Clifford impressed with Kaminsky
Steve Clifford spoke well of Frank Kaminsky, stating he’s playing some of the best basketball of his career right now:
“He’s in rhythm and there is no hesitation right now. When he’s half-open, that ball is in the air. I don’t think there is anything more important for him than that. His exceptional trait, particularly for a man of his size, is to attack closeouts” when defenders over-commit to getting to him on jump shots.
Kaminsky is another polarizing figure with the Hornets. Consistency has been an issue, but as Bonnell points out, he’s scored at least 10 points in 10 of the past 13 games. That’s a mark of consistency, and it’s no wonder the bench is improving of late.