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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs @ Charlotte Hornets

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On the second game of an east coast back-to-back, the Spurs take on the streaking Charlotte Hornets.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Charlotte Hornets

Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, NC
January 14, 2015, 6:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

Just as it took a concerted effort to start dating homework with the new calendar year back in my school days, I still find it difficult to stop calling Charlotte the Bobcats. A few weeks ago, remembering what the team was called didn't seem to be a problem, as they looked headed to the lottery after what many deemed a disappointing follow-up season to last year's surprising playoff berth. But after a five-game winning streak -- the most impressive of which being a victory in Toronto -- Charlotte sits just 1.5 games outside of the eighth seed. Sure, they're doing so with what is still just a 15-24 record but, hey, it's the East.

The main reason for the team's success as of late is the Super-Saiyan-like play of Kemba Walker, who has had to shoulder a heavy load with Big Al Jefferson out with a groin injury. He's averaged over 30 points a game during the stretch, to go along with six boards and nearly five assists per contest. Kemba's also done it with efficiency: he's averaged a mere 1.6 turnovers a game and shot at almost 50% from the field.

On the record as 6'1'', Walker sits alongside J.J. Barea atop my list of guys who I refuse to believe are as tall as I am, which I judge purely based on how big the basketball looks when the player is dribbling it. My advanced science aside, something else Walker seems to possess is that hyperbolic 'clutch gene', which most recently propelled him to this game-winner against New Orleans last week:

The Hornets will be without Al Jefferson for an eighth straight game, meaning they'll be leaning once more on Walker and its still-unproven young frontcourt. It should bode well for a San Antonio defense that will likely challenge the Charlotte point guard to do his damage along the perimeter. He's been hot as of late (40%, compared to 32% for his career), but his three-point shooting should come back to Earth soon.

Even if he does put up another 30-plus-point-performance, it will likely take a big contribution from someone like Gerald Henderson or Michael-Kidd Gilchrist for the Hornets to win. It's not outside the realm of possibility, as both guys will be delighted to match up against someone like Marco Belinelli, whom they can muscle around under the basket, instead of the still-injured Kawhi Leonard.

Former Spurs fan-favorite Gary Neal is now on the Hornets bench. He's been ice cold as of late, but he's the type of player I wouldn't question to go off against his former team. If I were Steve Clifford, I'd probably take a flier on him early, if he doesn't miss another game (hamstring).

For the Spurs, the return of Tony Parker has been a welcome sight, and the team seems to slowly be returning to full strength. What this means for Austin Daye's meteoric rise (Dayenaissance?), I'm not sure, but I think San Antonio will regain a bit of footing in the Western Conference standings over the next month, and I think this game will help in that.

Matchup to watch: Danny Green against Gerald Henderson. Whether or not Kemba gets his, it'll take another big showing for Charlotte to get the win. If Green can contain Henderson, the Hornets will have one of their few other offensive weapons negated, and it will improve the Spurs' chances to get the win.

vs.

Charlotte Hornets (15-24)

San Antonio Spurs (23-14)

January 14, 2015

Time Warner Cable Arena, Charlotte, North Carolina

6:00 PM CDT

TV: FSSW

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Kemba Walker

PG

Tony Parker

Gerald Henderson

SG

Danny Green

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

SF

Austin Daye

Cody Zeller

PF

Tiago Splitter

Bismack Biyombo

C

Tim Duncan


For the Hornets' perspective, please visit At the Hive.

Game prediction: Spurs by 7.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment: Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com