GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
at CHARLOTTE HORNETS
Tip-off: Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: N/A, Total: N/A
A struggling Hornets team will be heavy underdogs against the visiting Warriors.In the annual competition among mediocre Eastern Conference teams to nab a playoff spot, the 2017-18 Charlotte Hornets are not off to a good start. They entered this week's slate of games on a four-game losing streak, and 12th in the East standings with an underwhelming 8-13 record. While not exactly a talent-rich roster, coach Steve Clifford's team should have enough firepower to be better than this, especially when receiving a better-than-expected season thus far from newly acquired C Dwight Howard on top of the usual array of wizardry from PG Kemba Walker. After a tilt with the Magic on Monday night, the floundering Hornets will need to reach deep if they want to hang with the visiting Warriors on Wednesday. While Golden State has struggled by its own enormous standards—it's on a pace to finish with closer than 60 wins to 70—the Dubs are more or less the same juggernaut they've been for the last three seasons. Wednesday night's trip to Charlotte will be the fifth game of a six-game road trip for the Warriors.
The Hornets had Saturday and Sunday off, but they might've preferred to be on the court rather than sitting with a close loss suffered to the Heat on Friday night, their fifth straight defeat. Charlotte led the game 16-1 in its early minutes, but surrendered a 9-0 run at the end of the game to let Miami seal the deal on a comeback. The Hornets were without Walker for a second straight game with a shoulder injury, although he was expected to return to the lineup on Monday night after a weekend of rest. Earlier in November he had an explosive 47-point night with the Bulls, but it came in a loss to the last-place Bulls. Seven Hornets scored in double-digits without Walker in the lineup against Miami, an encouraging feat of ball-sharing given the general absence of offensive spark on this team. PF Marvin Williams led the way with 16 points and six rebounds, while SG Jeremy Lamb and C Cody Zeller each added 12 points off the bench. It's been a career year for Lamb, who enters the week averaging 15.9 PPG after never having posted a full-season scoring average in the double digits throughout his career. Howard enters the week third in the league with 12.5 rebounds per game, and is third on the Hornets in scoring with just over 15.0 PPG. His presence has served to somewhat reduce the roles of Zeller and PF Frank Kaminsky. SF Nic Batum, ostensibly the offense's second option behind Walker, has only played eight games after beginning the year injured. His 35 minutes against the Heat was his third 30 minute-plus outing thus far.
Just how worrisome is PG Stephen Curry's three-point shooting for the Warriors? The two-time MVP is shooting "only" 37.7% from deep entering Golden State's Monday night game with the Pelicans, down from a previous career low of 41.1% last season. It's a sample size of 200 shots, which isn't insignificant, but it still seems far more likely than not that he sees those numbers rise. He's still an elite scorer, entering Monday night fourth in the NBA with 26.1 PPG, and has been shooting incredibly well (even for him) inside the arc. Plus, he remains an elite ball-handler and passer on a team that has more than enough weapons to compensate for his minor cold streak. He had 30 in a win over the Heat on Sunday, and SF Kevin Durant added 24. It was his third straight game with at least that many points after having sat out three straight with a sprained left ankle. He is second only to LeBron James among small forwards in shooting percentage. SG Klay Thompson has been even better than usual from deep, compensating for Curry's relative shortcomings with a blistering 46.1 percentage from deep through the weekend. He torched Orlando for 27 points on only 14 field goal attempts in a win on Friday. PF Draymond Green had only four points on five shots against Miami, and his +32 plus-minus showed that scoring is probably the least essential part of his multifaceted skill set. C Zaza Pachulia plays 15 or 20 minutes a night as a starter, while SF Andre Iguodala gets about 25 MPG off the bench. He sat out against both Orlando and Miami with a sore left knee, but was expected to return for Monday night.