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Clippers vs. Hornets Preview: Eastern Conference Roadtrip Continues

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The Clippers move on to the third game of their trek through the Eastern Conference against the Hornets and Kemba Walker.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina

When: 4:00 PM PT

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups:

Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-AlexanderPatrick BeverleyAvery BradleyTobias HarrisMarcin Gortat

Hornets: Kemba WalkerJeremy LambNicolas Batum – Marvin WilliamsCody Zeller

Injuries:

Clippers: Danilo Gallinari Out (back), Luc Mbah a Moute Out (knee)

Hornets: Cody Zeller Probable (hand)

The Big Picture:

The Clippers are struggling. They went 1-3 last week, and only got the one win through a miraculous comeback against a lethargic Pistons team. Their defense, after briefly surging in early-mid January, has fallen back down to earth, and their offense is ineffective when Lou Williams is not performing magical acts on the basketball court. Only young Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has stepped up to the plate, putting together his best back-to-back performances of the season over the past two games, and extending his streak of scoring in double figures to five. He’s flourished with Gallinari out, but the rest of the team has not, and they need him back in the lineup as soon as possible. The Lakers are coming with LeBron James (and almost certain trade deadline reinforcements), and the Kings refuse to go away either.

The Antagonist:

The Hornets are having yet another mediocre season as a bottom-tier playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Kemba Walker has cooled since a hot start, yet remains one of the most combustible and explosive scorers in the NBA – and one of the most entertaining. The issue, as it has been for years, is that the rest of the supporting cast is lacking. Nicolas Batum’s disappearing act is worse than ever, Cody Zeller is always injured (though probably coming back tonight), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist still can’t shoot, and Bismack Biyombo is somehow making $18 million a season. Fortunately, the Hornets do have some glimpses of promise with the scoring of second-year guard Malik Monk off the bench and the flashes of incredible explosive play from rookie forward Miles Bridges. The Hornets aren’t bad, just mediocre, but on the right night they can be dangerous.

Notes:

  • Clips hope second game is similar to first: The Clippers first game against the Hornets, nearly a month ago, was one of their best wins of the season. They played excellent defense against the Hornets, moved the ball around on offense, and had the game locked up by the mid-third quarter. Lou Williams was rolling, the team was healthy (outside of Luc) and the Clippers appeared to be in good straits. Since then, things haven’t been so great, but the Clippers have to hope they have the Hornets number once again.
  • Tobias’ shooting: As detailed by Farbod here, Tobias Harris has been severely effected by his shoulder strain which he suffered against the Lakers last week. His outside shot has been off, his confidence is down, and he just doesn’t look comfortable on the court. With a full day off to rest, hopefully Harris is feeling better, because Gallo is out once again, and the Clippers need Harris to shoulder (no pun intended) much of the scoring load. If he still looks out of sorts, the Clippers could be in for a long night.
  • More starting lineup experimentation: With the Clippers flailing over the past few games, Doc Rivers has gone increasingly experimental with his lineups. He’s played four guards, tried every single one of the Clippers’ big men, given Jerome Robinson more minutes, and even gone long stretches without Avery Bradley! The Hornets are a pretty traditional opponent in that they usually have a big man on the floor and don’t have too many players who need to be switched against, so this could be a Marcin Gortat game. However, don’t be surprised if Doc returns to Johnathan Motley, or even tries running the Bobinator out there again. As long as the Clippers are in the woods, Doc will keep searching for a lineup to bring them out.
  • Stopping Kemba: Really, the game will come down to the Clippers getting buckets and being able to slow Kemba Walker. Jeremy Lamb has developed into a nice scorer, and Monk can string some baskets together, but the Hornets’ only true threat is Walker, and what a threat he is. The Clippers did well in their first meeting at holding him in check, but he’s a guy who feeds off the home crowd, and the Clippers will need to make sure to not let him get going, because he’s very hard to stop when he does.

Check out At the Hive for the Hornets perspective, and check back in for the game thread later!