Charlotte Opens West Trip Out in Denver
By Sam Perley
A season-long six-game road voyage for the Hornets begins with a major test as they face off against the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets this afternoon beginning at 5 p.m. ET.
The Hornets are coming off a rough blowout home loss to the Mavericks on Wednesday night, although did beat the Nuggets, 113-107, back on Dec. 7 with Kemba Walker, Tony Parker, Malik Monk and Marvin Williams all finishing with 14+ points. Denver enters this showdown on a nine-game home winning streak, having not lost at the Pepsi Center since Nov. 13 against the Houston Rockets.
After finishing with just 11 points and five assists three days ago against Dallas, look for Walker to get back on track in this one. Prior to this most recent outing, the Eastern Conference’s current third-leading vote-getter amongst guards put up 33.8 points on 57.1/54.3 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.0 steal in four appearances between Dec. 26-31.
Walker’s counterpart on the Nuggets will be 21-year-old Jamal Murray, who had a team-high 20 points back in Charlotte a month ago. The Canadian leads Denver in scoring this season (career-high 18.8 PPG) and over his last four outings (all wins), is averaging 30.3 points on 51.7 percent shooting, 5.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists.
Murray is a below average three-point shooter (just 33.5 percent this season), although has connected on a blistering 19-of-33 such attempts over this aforementioned stretch (57.6 percent). With backcourt running mate Jeremy Lamb doubtful to play (right hamstring strain), expect Walker to be ultra-aggressive in a back-and-forth battle between two score-first point guards.
Game Note – Charlotte drained a season-high 34-of-38 free throws attempts (89.5 percent) against Denver on Dec. 7. Through Jan. 3, the Nuggets are ranked 11th in the NBA in opposing free-throw attempts per game (22.0), while the Hornets are tied for eighth (21.7).
Classic Fact – The Hornets beat the Nuggets, 119-112, on March 26, 1996, which was the franchise’s first-ever double-overtime road victory. Robert Parish also grabbed 17 rebounds in this victory, making him the oldest player in league history to reach this threshold in a single game (42 years, 209 days old).