The Hornets close out their five-game homestand tonight as they face off against the Washington Wizards. The Hornets head into tonight’s game, winning just one of their four games through this current home stretch. They lost games to the Suns, Nets, and Hawks last week, beating the Warriors Wednesday. Sunday’s game against the Hawks was their ugliest loss in recent memory. They lost 122-107 in a game where the Hawks poured 71 second-half points on the Hornets.
Tonight’s game against the Wizards will be an opportunity for the roller-coaster Hornets to cap off their first lengthy homestand with a win before they head off to Brooklyn to face the Nets Wednesday.
Here are some storylines heading into tonight’s game against Washington:
The luxury of being at home: extra time to improve their defense
The Hornets have not struggled to score the ball as of late but have let lapses on the defensive end cost them games. The latest case being Sunday against the Hawks. Atlanta knocked down 18-threes Sunday en route to a dominant second half.
James Borrego mentioned postgame Sunday that the team’s primary focus is and will continue to be their defense. “A lot of their threes were wide open. We had some coverage breakdowns and some urgency breakdowns and a lack of focus on that end of the floor in our coverages. ” Miles Bridges expressed similar concerns of allowing the Hawks to hit too many open threes, putting emphasis on their defensive rotations.
Borrego pointed to the advantage of being in Charlotte for an extended period of time. This can help overcome and improve aspects of the team’s play like defensive in between home gamess. In a league where scheduling is very inconsistent, you can find some sort of flow during a home stretch. When teams are on the road, constantly traveling, getting into the next city in the wee hours of the morning – 3 or 4 am according to Borrego – that next day is primarily devoted to sleep and recovery. “You don’t get a whole lot out of them the next day,” Borrego said.
Practice and Film
On the other hand, at home, you can practice the day after a game. Borrego explained how much more you get out of your guys that next day. Getting the guys in at 11 o’clock to practice the next morning is a drastic improvement compared to being on the road where some players may not even be awake by 11. Just the little things like sleeping in your own bed go a long way.
“That’s big in the rhythm and the cycle of the NBA. That week stretch that you have at home,” Borrego stated last Wednesday referring to practicing the day after games – more so important after a bad loss Sunday. “Not only the game development but what we do in practice the next day. That’s where we grow as a team.”
A big key in overcoming defensive lapses is watching film, which is easily more accessible at home. This is ever more important for a young team. Getting quality film time is crucial for this Hornets young team.
“Defense. That’s been our main focus on film this week,” Miles Bridges said after Sunday’s loss. Bridges said they have been focusing on their “aggressiveness, on-ball pressure, our rotations, and all that stuff,” referencing there has been a primary focus on not just protecting the paint but also the perimeter. The Wizards rank 5th in the NBA in offensive rating (112.4), so the Hornets will look to utilize their extra film and practice time tonight.
James Borrego shaking up the rotation: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist gets a look
James Borrego has spoken several times in the past several weeks about “shaking up the rotation.” Sunday we saw something unseen to this point in the season. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was one of the first few Hornets off the bench in the first quarter, playing valuable minutes.
Kidd-Gilchrist had only appeared in two games prior to Sunday, playing a collective 18 minutes in those two contests. Those appearances occurred during garbage time, compared to his career minutes per game average being north of 25. He had been the only player on the Hornets’ full-time roster to not play meaningful minutes this season.
“I was giving MKG a look,” Borrego said. “He stayed ready, and he’s been working, and I went with him tonight over Nic.” MKG played over Batum, totaling 23 minutes on the floor – matching up to Batum’s 22.5 average this season. Kidd-Gilchrist scored 7 points and added 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and a block.
The 8-year vet is still young and says he still has a lot of basketball left in him. It has been a difficult adjustment for him, but he has kept his confidence and stayed ready. “It’s hard, but I can’t really control the narrative. I’m young, and I have a lot of basketball left in me. Whatever happens after this happens.”
MKG is in the last year of his four-year deal with the Hornets. There has been plenty of discussion surrounding his future – not looking bright – with the Hornets. The 26-year-old is still confident in his game as he repeated Sunday. We will see if he continues to be in the rotation tonight against the Wizards.
Hornets’ & Wizards’ injury report
The Wizards head into tonight’s game missing several key players due to various injuries. Thomas Bryant (right foot), Isaiah Thomas (left calf strain), CJ Miles (left wrist), and Jordan McRae (right fourth finger) are all out tonight.
Thomas Bryant had been the Wizards’ starting center, averaging 13.9 points and 8.5 rebounds on the season. The last time these two teams met up Bryant racked up 21 points and 11 rebounds on November 22. Expect Davis Bertans and Moritz Wagner to take up those extra minutes from Bryant. Bertans is 9th in the NBA in three-point percentage at 45.2, on 8.5 attempts per game. Wagner is averaging 11.8 points per game in 40.3 percent from beyond the arc. The Hornets struggled to defend the perimeter Sunday and tonight their bigs will have to defend Washington’s stretch bigs tight.
Per the NBA’s 1:30 PM injury report Tuesday, Marvin Williams is listed as doubtful with right knee soreness. He missed Sunday’s game with the same injury. Cody Martin was recalled by the Hornets from the Greensboro Swarm. If you read between the lines, the Hornets are preparing to be without their veteran forward tonight.
P.J. Washington tweaked his right ankle Sunday – not returning to the game – in the second half and is listed as probable for tonight’s game. Postgame he said his ankle was fine. No major concerns there. Expect Washington to play unless any issues arise when he tests it out pre-game.
Despite Devonte’ Graham & Terry Rozier struggling Sunday, they look to bounce back
Prior to Sunday’s tough loss to the Atlanta Hawks, Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham had been putting up stellar numbers since Graham was inserted into the starting lineup.
Terry Rozier averaged 19.8 points per game over that 14-game stretch on 47.8 percent shooting from the field, including 46.1 percent on threes (7.4 attempts per game). He added 4.8 rebounds and 3.6 assists. Rozier is one of the league’s leaders in catch-and-shoot three-point percentage, shooting it at a clip north of 50 percent.
Devonte’ Graham put up equally impressive numbers. Scoring 20.0 points per game on 41.2 percent shooting from the field and 41.9 percent from three (9.7 attempts per game). He added 7.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds.
The hot streak took a brief pause Sunday as the pair had off nights. Rozier had 8 points on 3-13 shooting (2-7 3pt), adding 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Devonte’ Graham 12 points on 4-17 shooting (2-8 3pt) but added 6 rebounds and 8 assists. A combined 7-30 shooting was by far the pair’s worst performance together.
Tonight, Charlotte’s backcourt will look to take advantage of a porous Wizards’ defense. Washington ranks at the bottom of the league in defensive rating (116.4). Graham and Rozier will attempt to light up the scoreboard and end their homestand with a 2-3 record.