After Dropping Road Trip Opener, Hornets Head Down to Phoenix
By Sam Perley
The first of two back-to-back sets for the Hornets on their six-game road trip wraps up tonight as they look to follow yesterday’s 123-110 loss in Denver with a win over the Phoenix Suns, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.
Charlotte swept the Suns last year, rallying from 21 points down to win in Phoenix, 115-110, back on Feb. 4, 2018. Phoenix has lost seven of its last eight games and through Jan. 4, is the only team in the league ranked in the bottom five in both offensive rating (104.2; 28th) and defensive rating (112.7; 28th).
With Cody Zeller officially out for 4-6 weeks (broken right hand), Coach Borrego moved Bismack Biyombo into the starting lineup yesterday in Denver. The Congolese veteran provided the team with a nice combination of physicality and rim-running, finishing with season-high totals in points (16) and rebounds (12) to go along with two steals and two blocks.
Biyombo will be paired up in the paint with another foreign-born big man in Deandre Ayton. A native of the Bahamas, last summer’s top overall pick ranks second amongst all rookies in scoring (16.7 PPG) and first in both rebounding (10.8) and field-goal percentage (60.7 percent; seventh-best mark overall in the NBA).
This pivotal matchup features varying styles of play, although both Ayton and Biyombo make their living crashing the glass. A strong outing by the entire Hornets frontcourt against one of the NBA’s leading double-double producers could go a long way in closing out the back-to-back with a much-needed victory.
Game Note – Phoenix Head Coach Igor Kokoškov was an assistant under James Borrego when the latter was the Orlando Magic’s Interim Head Coach for 30 games in 2015. Kokoškov actually filled the vacancy on the Orlando coaching staff when Borrego was promoted.
Classic Fact – Larry Johnson finished second in the 1992 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, the highest showing by any player in this competition or the Three-Point Shootout in franchise history. Cedric Ceballos of the Phoenix Suns beat him out for the title.