The best show the NBA has to offer comes to Charlotte tonight. Golden State (38-7) has been as amazing as most expected in most situations this season and now the Hornets (23-22) get their first crack at them on their home floor. After a disappointing outing against the surging Wizards on Monday night in the Spectrum Center, Charlotte will look to rebound against the league’s best. When the best product this league has to offer comes to your city, you write about it. The QCH panel tackles three big questions ahead of the matchup with Charlotte and Golden State.
1- Both teams come into tonight off of a loss on Monday. It has been 131 regular season games since Golden State has dropped back-to-back games, but ignore that stat for a moment. What’s the most important statistical category for the Hornets tonight?
Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer): Golden State is as close to a perfect team as the league has seen in a very long time, if not ever. Charlotte must take care of the ball, make tons of shots, get to the foul line, control the glass, be cognizant of over-helping defensively – um, what else? Just about everything else.
It’s going to take a perfect game for the Hornets and it starts on the defensive end. Communication is not quantifiable, but it reigns supreme in importance for the Hornets tonight – know where you can switch, where you can’t and talk through all of it. This keeps bodies close to shooters and allows Charlotte to contest jump-shots more often. If the Hornets can contain the basketball, force as many contested jumpers as possible and win on the glass then this game will be closer than most think in the final quarter.
Richie Randall (@RichieRandall): There’s plenty areas of focus when you face a team of Golden State’s caliber. Obviously, they love to shoot the three-ball and do a great job of converting them, but I’m not going to hang my hat on slowing down that aspect of their game – especially the way we’ve defended the three. The category that should prove to be important is turnovers. The Hornets have proven that limiting turnovers is a staple in their philosophy. When Charlotte commits turnovers, careless or not, they struggle to win games. Charlotte can’t allow the Warriors, who love to push the pace, even more of an edge in fast break points. On the opposite end, the Warriors turn the ball over about 15 times per game, placing them in the bottom tier. The Hornets need to take advantage of these breaks. If Charlotte somehow scores 20 points off turnovers, it would put them in a position to steal a victory against the vaunted Warriors.
Mark Buonocore (@HornetSportSpot): I think the most important category will be three-point makes. We know both teams will shoot a ton of threes, but if the Hornets can somehow stay close to the Warriors in three-point makes, they may be able to keep it close. The Hornets will need to hit their open triples to have any shot.
Reece Helms (@Reece_Helms): The Golden State Warriors have the most talent offensively in the NBA. In order for Charlotte to score enough points to keep the game close they will have to shoot efficiently from three-point land. Kemba Walker will have to score 30+ and get some help from Nicolas Batum, who has struggled of late. Off the bench, Frank Kaminsky and Marco Belinelli will have to make their 3-pointers if the Hornets are going to score enough points to stay competitive. If Charlotte shoots a better percentage on threes than Golden State, it may be a closer game than people think.
2- We all know Golden State is loaded across the board with offensive talent. What one player, if any, should Charlotte be focusing in on to limit? If the answer is none, what’s the defensive game-plan entering this game?
Spence: There should be no help off of Curry or Thompson. Deny those two as much as possible and try to coax Durant into his ISO-heavy offensive arsenal – of course, then can beat you as well, but with the Warriors, you simply have to pick your poison.
The 1-5 pick-and-roll action with the starting units will be a key out of the gate in this game. Zeller is going to have to work his tail off to hedge very aggressively against Curry and then recover to his man with active hands, attempting to bother any possible passing lane. Any other PnR action can theoretically be switched by Charlotte, but I’d be surprised to see Clifford take this approach.
When Golden State puts Kaminsky into a handful of pick-and-rolls, just go ahead and switch that action. Steve Kerr, along with the rest of the league, understands that Frank cannot work his way through a hedge-and-recover action without throwing up all over himself.
Besides all of that, just pray.
Richie: I badly wanted to choose Zaza Pachulia but think limiting Durant will be the key. Durant is shooting the ball from all over the court at an high clip — 54% from the field and 39% from three. His ability to score in a variety of ways will give any team fits and makes it much more difficult to slow him down. We have a player in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who’s guaranteed to bring the energy necessary for this tough task. Durant, out of any star on the Warriors, will play iso ball. If Kidd-Gilchrist can pester the Warrior’s leading scorer, Durant can take Golden State out of their offense. Having said all this, the game-plan will require sound team defense.
Mark: While most will say Curry here, I have to go with Durant. The offense for the Warriors is so balanced that it may not make a difference, but I see Durant being the most difficult player for the Hornets to match up with. The Hornets have guys who can match up with Curry and Thompson on the perimeter, but no one player can guard Durant inside and out.
Reece: If the Charlotte Hornets want any prayer of beating the mighty Warriors they will have to limit their three-point shooting opportunities. The Warriors are 7-0 when they hit 15+ three pointers and are 29-1 when they have more than 30 team assists. It’s nearly impossible to shut down all four of the Warrior stars, but as long as the Hornets can limit their wide open shots they can keep the game close.
3- It’s a rare national television appearance for the Hornets. What exactly would a win against the vaunted Warriors in front of a national audience mean for Charlotte and their season?
Spence: It would mean less now since Golden State lost in Miami Monday night, but this would be the biggest home victory the fanbase has witnessed since this franchise returned to the Hornets.
Richie: A win would mean a lot, not only for the fans, but for this team’s confidence. After a shaky road trip and a loss to a divisional foe, this team can use a win against a top-notch team on national television. It will take a complete game for 48 minutes, something that has been few and far between with these Hornets. If you slip up for even just one quarter, the Warriors will make you pay. If we can put forth the effort on both ends of the ball, like when we last played on ESPN against the Spurs, we will be in good shape. If we fail to show up, it will shed even more light on our issues and fans will be clamoring for a move with the trade deadline around the corner.
Mark: Honestly, I don’t think a win means much of anything for the team. It’s an out of conference win that has the same value as any other win. However, for the fans it could be a huge boost of energy and excitement and if Kemba plays big it could be a last push into the All-Star game.
Reece: Tonight is a very important game for the Charlotte Hornets. Not just because it’s on national television, or the fact the Eastern Conference playoff race is tight, but it’s a matter of pride for the Hornets. No one outside of Charlotte thinks they have a chance and you can bet they are ready to shock the NBA world. If you happened to see ESPN’s promo commercial for the game, they only showed video clips of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. There was not a mention of Kemba Walker or anyone on the Hornets. ESPN/ABC commentator Mark Jackson mentioned this during the Warriors/Grizzlies game a few weeks ago, as the same thing happened with the Grizzlies. If I’m head coach Steve Clifford, I would show the team that commercial as motivation.