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Portland Trail Blazers at Charlotte Hornets Game Preview

Hoping to avoid another disastrous road trip, the Blazers look for a win in Charlotte against the Hornets.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (18-25) at Charlotte Hornets (20-21)

Jan. 18, 2017, 4:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Ed Davis (out), Festus Ezeli (out)
Hornets injuries: Jeremy Lamb (out)
SBN Affiliate: At The Hive

The Trail Blazers will be looking to avoid dropping the first two games of their current road-trip when they visit the Hornets this evening. Both Portland and Charlotte are enduring their own sets of problems, and they’re both running the risk of missing out on the postseason if the troubles persist into the final-stretch of the season.

Charlotte enters tonight’s contest on the heels of a five-game losing streak, and find themselves outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture for the first time this season. The Hornets will receive a healthy amount of scrutiny—along with the Blazers—if they are unable to turn things around, as they made player retention a major priority in the offseason.

Even with the struggles in mind, the Hornets are led by a potent backcourt tandem. Nic Batum is healthy once again after missing games to start the month, but he hasn’t yet regained the form that earned him a massive payday over the summer. The former Portland wing is joined by the ever-improving Kemba Walker.

Walker has taken a massive leap so far this season, as he is averaging career highs in both points per game and 3-point percentage. The former UCONN standout already has six games to his credit in which he has either reached or surpassed the 30-point threshold.

The Hornets’ starting unit is rounded-out with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, and Cody Zeller. They’ll never be accused of being the flashiest frontcourt in the league, but they’re perfectly capable of filling the roles assigned to them. Kidd-Gilchrist—a defensive specialist—will likely undertake the thankless task of guarding either Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum for long stretches.

Sluggish starts have doomed the Trail Blazers in consecutive outings, and a repeat must be avoided if they hope to best the Hornets on their own court. Surrendering an early lead to Charlotte will allow their unheralded reserves to play without pressure, which is the same luxury that Washington’s bench enjoyed earlier this week.

Early deficits also put a significant amount of pressure on Portland’s high-octane offense, often resulting in high turnover totals. If the Blazers fall into this trap once again, they will be buried by a Hornets team that averages the second-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA.

Once again, the Trail Blazers’ biggest opponent will be their own inconsistency. The stellar performance against the Cavaliers seems like a distant memory after the massive letdown against the Wizards on Monday. After holding Los Angeles and Cleveland to under 90 points, Portland returned to their open-door policy when comes to defense in the last two games.

Many of the Trail Blazers’ defensive deficiencies are fixable, and tonight’s game against the Hornets presents Portland with another chance at remedying those problems. Desperation is in the air, and it’s tough to tell which team will recover from their recent struggles first.

Blazer’s Edge Night 2017

Want to assist us in sending 2,000+ underprivileged Portland-area kids to a Trail Blazers game this spring? Check out Blazer’s Edge Night 2017 for information on how to get involved, and help spread the word!