The Charlotte Hornets have largely played .500 basketball since their first meeting with the Spurs last month. That was the game, of course, that would effectively end the 2021 iteration of the Rodeo Road Trip for health and safety protocols related to the COVID-19 virus, with the Spurs missing 4 games total as a team and for a handful of players even more than that. The Hornets would miss 2 contests of their own for the same protocols and have spent much of the last few weeks since then either picking up nail-biting wins or losing by double-digits.
That last point has been especially true on their current 5-game road trip, which they’ve started 0-3. All 3 losses, which have come against some of the best the West has to offer, have been by double digits, including a season-worst 27 point loss to the Clippers on Saturday night in which they were held to just 39% shooting from the field and only managed to muster 98 points. While players such as Gordon Hayward and rookie sensation LaMelo Ball continue to have great seasons, they have been mostly mediocre as a team, ranking 18th and 22nd in offensive and defensive rating, respectfully.
Coming home for the first game of a 9-game homestand after a 5-game road trip of their own, the Spurs have a chance to add to their head-scratching 10-10 home record in their pursuit of a playoff appearance. Nothing is guaranteed, especially out West, and the Spurs need to continue to pick up wins against the Charlotte’s and Atlanta’s of the NBA, teams with similar records to their own with the goal of giving themselves as much flexibility as possible for the playoff picture when the calendar starts to turn to May.
Charlotte Hornets (20-21) versus San Antonio Spurs (22-16)
March 22, 2021 | 7:30 PM CST
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Keita Bates-Diop: (out - hamstring)
Hornets Injuries: LaMelo Ball (wrist - out), Cody Zeller (shoulder - day to day), Terry Rozier (hip - day to day)
What to Watch For
- Keep Charlotte off the FT line - The Spurs committed just 13 personal fouls in the first game versus the Hornets in Charlotte, which in turn led to just 11 free throw attempts. San Antonio commits the 2nd fewest personal fouls in the entire association (17.2 per game). A repeat performance would no doubt help them immensely tonight.
- Youngest Ball brother is showing out - LaMelo Ball, averaging 19 points and 6 assists over his last 10 games and shooting 38% from 3 for the season, has certainly lived up to the hype in ways his older brother Alonzo never really has. His rookie season has been an Instagram highlight reel of wacky shots, sick dimes, and an all-around offensive game that will likely lead to future All Star appearances. He had 17-12-8 in the first game with the Spurs, but shot just 7/20 from the field and committed 5 turnovers. He’s currently day to day after injuring his wrist early against the Clippers, but still managed to play 21 minutes in the blowout loss. (Update: Ball is expected to miss the rest of the season with a broken wrist.)
- Need more than just glimpses from Lonnie Walker IV - Lonnie Walker doesn’t have to drop 31 every night, but it would be a major luxury if he was able to show some more of the nasty he displayed in Milwaukee. Walker looked decisive, focused, and confident throughout most of the game Saturday night and for someone as naturally talented as he is, some confidence could be all it takes to take his game to the next level. Who knows what that version of the Spurs could look like?
- DeMar DeRozan: Point Guard - DeMar DeRozan’s career-best 7.5 assists against just 1.7 turnovers this year, playing conductor and having a big part in the Spurs averaging a league-low 10.8 turnovers per game. In his last 7 games, he has racked up double digit assists in 4 of them, including a season-high 13 in the loss to the Bucks. More impressive than that? The fact that he had just a single turnover in 38 minutes of play. If the over/under on his assist total tonight is 10, you could be tempted to take the over.
For the Hornets fan’s perspective, please visit At the Hive.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.