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Portland Trail Blazers at Charlotte Hornets Preview

Portland has won of four of five on the current road stretch as they look to knock off another Eastern Conference playoff team.

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

Portland Trail Blazers (38-24) at Charlotte Hornets (29-33)

March 3, 2019 - 10:00 a.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Evan Turner (questionable)
Hornets injuries: J.P. Macura (game-time decision)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
How to stream: YouTube Live TV, Playstation Vue, Hulu Live TV, FuboTV, NBA League Pass (outside of Portland)
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: At The Hive

The Portland Trail Blazers return to the host of the 2019 All-Star Game, rolling on a road trip that has exceeded many expectations. The Blazers have won four of five on the current road stand, with their only defeat coming on a last-second shot by Kawhi Leonard in Friday’s 119-117 loss to the Toronto Raptors. CJ McCollum scored 35 in the effort, his second 35-point game in the last three games. He has averaged 24 points per game over the road trip.

For Charlotte, they look to hold on to first place in a remarkably dreadful Southeast Division. The Hornets maintain a slim lead over the Orlando Magic, but no team in the division is out of the playoff picture, despite the last place Atlanta Hawks being 21 games under .500. Last time out, the Hornets took care of the Brooklyn Nets in New York 123-112. Kemba Walker scored 25 for Charlotte.

What to watch for

  • Halt the one man show. Kemba Walker does it all for the Hornets. Averaging 25.2 points per game, he also leads the team in assists, steals, minutes, turnovers, PER, and nearly everything else. The next closest scorer on the team is Jeremy Lamb at 15.2. Putting pressure on Walker is the obvious key to stopping the Hornets.
  • Welcome back Kanter. After a one-game absence due to some extreme factors, Enes Kanter returns to help Portland off the bench. Meyers Leonard and Zach Collins were underwhelming in Toronto, so the infusion of points from Kanter will go a long way, especially if Evan Turner misses the game.
  • Keep McCollum hot. CJ McCollum has been a force over the last five games. Keeping him going will take a lot of pressure off Damian Lillard, who looks to be paired with the super crafty Walker all game long.

What they’re saying

Andrew Waters of At The Hive had good things to say about Charlotte super sub Devonte’ Graham:

When Graham has gotten the chance to play real, contributing minutes this season, he has made the most of it. Although small in size at 6-2, 185 pounds, coach Borrego has played the former Jayhawk alongside Kemba Walker in small ball situations. Situations that have been expanded upon in his three starting appearances this season.

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer wondered if the team has what it takes to finish making the playoffs:

I had no problem with the Hornets saying their top goal this season was to reach the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. The new basketball regime — general manager Mitch Kupchak and head coach James Borrego — inherited a veteran roster with accompanying big contracts. The idea of immediately going into rebuild mode, if not tanking mode, was impractical. But if you’re going to make the playoffs sound so important, and you have six veteran players each making $12 million or more this season, then close the deal. The bar certainly isn’t so high for the last two spots in the East that you can say the competition overwhelmed you.