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Clippers head to Charlotte to take on the Hornets

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The Clippers will try to improve to 3-0 without Blake Griffin when they face the Hornets Wednesday night.

Danny La-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 NBA Regular Season
vs.
Charlotte Hornets (17-13)

Los Angeles Clippers (19-13)
December 30, 2015 — 4:00 PM PDT
Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina
Prime Ticket, The Beast 980 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
17-13 Record 19-13
10-10 East 7-3
7-3 West 12-10
2-5 Division 4-3
13-5 Home 10-6
4-8 Road 9-7
8-11 .500+ 5-10
9-2 .500– 14-3
2-0 OT 1-0
5-5 L10 6-4
Projected Starters
Kemba Walker PG Chris Paul
P.J. Hairston SG J.J. Redick
Nicolas Batum SF Luc Mbah a Moute
Marvin Williams PF Paul Pierce
Cody Zeller C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('15-'16)
98.5 (15th) Pace 98.6 (13th)
103.3 (9th) OffRtg 104.0 (4th)
99.3 (8th) DefRtg 101.1 (14th)
4.0 (T-5th) NetRtg 2.9 (T-10th)
Injury Report

Nicolas Batum (toe) Questionable

Jeremy Lin (ankle) Questionable

Spencer Hawes (back) Questionable


Blake Griffin (quad) Out

What's new with the Clippers?

The Clippers have won three straight, two of which came without Blake Griffin in the lineup. The Clips' best player will be sidelined for each of the two remaining games on this road trip, and, probably, quite a bit longer. Fortunately, this team also happens to have Chris Paul, who has been demoralizing opponents of late. Losing a key cog sometimes has a way of galvanizing a team, and that seems to have happened with LAC.

What's new with the Hornets?

The Hornets have been one of the league's big surprises this season. In spite of their 17-13 record, they currently sit in the No. 9 spot in the Eastern Conference, which tells you all you need to know about the East's resurgence this season. By comparison, the 19-13 Clippers are fourth in the West.

Charlotte made a few big offseason moves. Their first strike was the trade of Lance Stephenson to the Clippers, which netted them Spencer Hawes and Matt Barnes (who was quickly traded for Jeremy Lamb). Stephenson was miserable in his lone season with the Hornets, and Charlotte figured it was best to cut ties just one year into a three year commitment. Hawes has been a solid bench player for them to this point, but he's questionable for this one due to back tightness.

The best move the Hornets made over the summer was the trade with Portland that netted them Nic Batum. Batum's status is also in question for this one, but he's put together an All-Star caliber campaign for the Hornets to begin the year. The Frenchman is a nightly triple-double threat, averaging about 16 points, six boards and five assists per game. He's also drilling a solid 36% of his triples as he serves as one of Charlotte's non-Kemba ball-handlers.

Speaking of Kemba Walker, he's also enjoying an excellent season. He'd been a poor-shooting, score-first point guard through his first four years in the league. This season, though, Walker is connecting on a solid 36.6% of his threes while averaging a team-leading 18.5 points per game. Kemba was dominant in the Hornets' win over the Lakers on Monday, pouring in 38 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists in 42 minutes.

Here was Kemba's shot chart last season (via NBA.com):

And here it is so far this year:

Quite the improvement, indeed. He should probably just stop taking that right-wing three, though.

Charlotte has been notoriously inept offensively over the last couple of seasons, but has emerged as an offensive force early in 2015. One of the biggest differences? They've started shooting a boatload of threes. Charlotte averages 28.9 three-point attempts per game, which ranks third in the Association. They're hitting about 35% of them, which ranks just 14th. Still, they're a far more dangerous offensive unit than they were a year ago when they attempted only 19 triples a night.

Rather than playing an inside-out game based around Al Jefferson, they've decided to try the bombs-away approach from the perimeter. So far, so good.

Matchup to watch

Nicolas Batum vs. Luc Mbah a Moute

As mentioned above, Batum has emerged as one of the Hornets' best overall players. The Clippers don't seem to have a player that matches up very well with him on paper, either. LMAM has seen a hike in minutes since the injury to Blake Griffin, but he may not have the lateral quickness necessary to keep up with Batum. Stopping Batum from distributing at-will is a must for LAC in this game, so the likes of LMAM, Paul Pierce and Jamal Crawford will have their hands full if he winds up playing.

Both Batum and Jeremy Lin are listed as "questionable" for this game, and the Hornets would be severely undermanned if both were to sit. Without either of them, the only real ball-handler in the rotation is Walker, with Brian Roberts likely to draw backup point guard duties in case of emergency. If the Clippers are able to limit Walker's quality looks, they should be in fine shape.

Key reserves

Lin (and his phenomenal hair) has been a key off-the-bench for Charlotte so far this season. If he were to miss this game, that would likely mean additional responsibility for Jeremy Lamb. Lamb failed to impress during his couple of seasons in Oklahoma City, but appears to have found a spot with the Hornets. He's averaging a career-best 11 points on 47% shooting from the floor in 29 games so far this season.

Charlotte also has an incredibly deep frontcourt. Even with Hawes possibly sidelined and Jefferson limited, the Hornets have workable rotation bigs in Marvin Williams, Frank Kaminsky and Cody Zeller. Kaminsky, a rookie, has shown flashes in recent games, averaging about 13 points and five boards over the last four games. The Hornets are capable of stretching the floor with three-point shooters at just about every position, which is something that has given the Clippers some problems in the past.

As for the Clippers, Lance Stephenson figures to be out for revenge against his former team. We saw him enjoy his best game in LAC colors earlier this season against another former team (Indiana), when he dropped 19 points, three boards and three dimes in 28 minutes. Unfortunately, he's seen his minutes dwindle of late, registering just 13 minutes of floor time over the last two games combined. He may not get much of an opportunity to exact the revenge he may seek.

The injury to Griffin has also meant an extended role for Paul Pierce. Fortunately, the veteran has been solid in each of the two games since Blake went down. He's shot an excellent 10-for-18 over that span, including 6-of-10 from deep. He was always going to be a key cog for this team in the long run, and it's been nice to see him showing signs of life after an atrocious start to his Clipper career.

Game day song of choice

This game is taking place in Charlotte, which means we have to find noteworthy musical acts that hail from the Tar Heel State. Sadly, a Google search reveals that there is really nobody of note from this area in terms of musical relevance. If you like one hit wonders, though, North Carolina is the state for you!

Step your game up, North Carolina.

We'll also throw this one in, just because there was really nothing else available. Petey Pablo is from N.C. He's not someone you'd say is a "noteworthy musical act", but he'll have to do.

Sure, whatever!

The Clips and Hornets get things started from Buzz City at 4pm PT on Prime Ticket. Go Clippers!