On Friday, the Charlotte Hornets will visit the Brooklyn Nets. At the eighth and sixth seeds respectively, the Hornets and Nets are fighting for playoff positioning among the last four spots in the Eastern Conference.
The teams have met three times this season. The teams split the first two games, the first of which was a double-overtime thriller. In their most recent matchup, the Nets won in a controversial finish.
Both teams come into the game following losses, with Houston beating Charlotte, and Washington beating Brooklyn.
Nets on the rise
Brooklyn has been one of the most surprising teams in the NBA this season. Behind All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell’s play, the Nets have fast-tracked the franchise’s rebuilding process. Russell leads the team with 20.5 points and 6.7 assists, earning himself his first All-Star selection this year.
The Nets are propelled by solid guard play outside of Russell too. Russell is aided by Spencer Dinwiddie, the four year player who is having a career year also, with 17 points and five assists per game.
Caris LeVert, who suffered a foot injury in November, has since returned and is beginning to play his way back to health.
The Nets also have a good collection of talent outside of the guard position. DeMarre Carroll and Jarret Allen provide post play and rebounding.
The team also has Joe Harris, who won the three-point contest at All-Star Weekend, for sharp-shooting abilities.
The Nets have come a long way since crippling themselves in the Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett trade.
Coach Kenny Atkinson also deserves a lot of credit for maximizing his team’s productivity. While Mike Budenholzer of Milwaukee seems to be the favorite for the Coach of the Year Award, Atkinson should still get some votes.
If it wasn’t for Kemba Walker, the Hornets would likely be in the hunt for Zion Williamson. Walker is currently averaging 25 points and six assists on the season, earning him another All-Star appearance this year. In the last year of his contract, Walker could choose to leave Charlotte next season.
Guard Jeremy Lamb is having a career year with 15 points, along with big men Cody Zeller and Marvin Williams averaging 10 points per game, along with providing rebounds.
Walker is in desperate need of a co-star in Charlotte, but that hasn’t been easy. Under Michael Jordan’s ownership, the Hornets have given out several bad contracts that make it hard to acquire talent.
It’s hard to see what direction the Hornets are going in, if not at a stagnate pace.
Just because the Nets are rising, while the Hornets are stuck in mediocrity, doesn’t mean Friday’s matchup isn’t important, or won’t make for good basketball.
The three matchups so far have all been close. This could be a big win for Charlotte, as they need all the wins they can get to keep their playoff seed from the Magic and Heat, who are right behind them.
Brooklyn has space between them and the Celtics, but the Nets would like to pass them if possible.
Friday’s matchup will be an offensively focused game. Both teams rank in the middle of the league in team defensive rating. Brooklyn has more offensive firepower, but Charlotte could pull off the win if Walker gets help from his teammates.
Look for Brooklyn to edge out Charlotte at home; 114- 110.