Portland Trail Blazers (18-14) vs. Charlotte Hornets (16-17)
The Portland Trail Blazers are rested and back at home after a disheartening winless three game road trip. It shouldn’t have been completely surprising given the injuries and the quality of the opponents, but there is a hint of panic in the air. Now Portland has three winnable games, all at home, before they get a needed rest for the All-Star Break. It feels like these next three games have outsized importance for the trajectory of the club. Win them all and recent losses will quickly fade from memory. Lose them all and it will start getting a bit tense at 1 North Center Court Street. It starts with Charlotte on Monday.
The Charlotte Hornets come into Moda Center with a similar feeling in that they need to start reeling off some wins. On the fifth game of a six game road trip, they have split their last four games, including a very surprising win against the surging Phoenix Suns. The Hornets have injury concerns of their own as they try to cling to a playoff spot in the East. Sunday night they won in dramatic fashion, roaring back from an eight point deficit with less than a minute to go to win 127-126 against the Sacramento Kings.
Monday, March 1 - 7:30 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: NBC Sports Northwest, NBA TV, or see games all season on fuboTV
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), CJ McCollum (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Harry Giles (day-to-day)
Hornets injuries: Cody Zeller (doubtful), Gordon Hayward (doubtful), Devonte’ Graham (day-to-day)
SBN Affiliate: At The Hive
What To Watch For
- Protecting the 3-point line. The Hornets have three players shooting over 40% from deep. Gordon Hayward is at 42.1%, Terry Rozier at 44.3% and Malik Monk is at an incredible 47.1%. The Blazers may catch a break if Hayward can’t suit up, but harassing Rozier and Monk has to be a priority. While the Blazer’s three-point defense is much maligned, it’s not quite as bad you might think, holding opponents to 36.7%. That’s good for 13th best in the NBA. Fortunately for the Blazers the Hornets are worse, ranking 21st, allowing opponents to shoot 37.4% from beyond the arc.
- Brother can you spare a dime? The Blazers are worst in the NBA at assists, generating only 19.9 per game. The Hornets are worst in the League at allowing assists, giving up 28.3. A common complaint of Blazers’ fans over the last four games is that the offense has stagnated too often. This game is a golden opportunity for Portland to share the love (and the ball) and get some assists.
- Take advantage of the opportunity. The Hornets are on the fifth game of a six game road trip. They are on the second night of a road back-to-back while the Blazers have had a couple of days off at home. Injuries may limit who is available for Charlotte. Of course the Blazers have huge injury problems of their own, but the Blazers aren’t going to have the deck stacked in their favor as much as it is for this game too often. The Blazers need to grab this opportunity with both hands.
What Others Are Saying
Dan Devin of the Ringer says that the patchwork roster in Charlotte is somehow largely working:
The Hornets may be misfits, but they can bring considerable versatility depending on matchups and circumstances. They can play big, with Zeller or Bismack Biyombo in as a traditional pivot, or small, with Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington up front, and still run lineups featuring secure ball handlers, smart passers, knockdown shooters, drivers, and interchangeable defenders all over the floor.
It’s not only the Blazers that has problems at the center position according to Rick Bonnel of the Charlotte Observer (Free Registration Required):
When Zeller can’t play, the Hornets don’t have a real Plan B. Borrego’s other center options are too small (Washington), too used-up (Biyombo) or too new (second-round rookie projects Vernon Carey and Nick Richards). There aren’t really schemes Borrego can employ at this point to hide that deficiency.
It’s not too often that Charlotte gets attention from the likes of Saturday Night Live, but Rookie of the Year candidate LaMelo Ball’s play gave Saturday Night Live an excuse to break out a LaVar Ball impression and deliver a few Charlotte zingers along the way. PG rated.