Hornets Eyeing 3rd-Straight Win with Suns Up Next
By Sam Perley
The Charlotte Hornets will look to close out a quick two-game homestand with a third-straight victory as they meet the Phoenix Suns once again this evening for an early 5 p.m. ET tipoff.
These teams squared off back in Phoenix on Jan. 6 with the Hornets coming away with a 119-113 road victory that was decided in the final seconds. Kemba Walker exploded down the stretch by scoring all but one of the team’s final 18 points, while the Suns finished the night shooting 51.8 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from three.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is coming off a season-high-tying 15 points and two steals against Sacramento on Thursday night, a game in which the Hornets were a team-best +26 in the 30 minutes when he was on the court. Over his last three appearances, Kidd-Gilchrist holds a team-leading defensive rating of 90.0 (+15.8 net rating) across 27.1 minutes per outing (minimum 3 GP).
Although it’s been another disappointing season for the 11-35 Suns, one recent bright spot has been the outstanding play of reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr. Phoenix acquired Oubre Jr. from Washington in the Trevor Ariza deal last month and over his last five games, he’s averaged 20.0 PPG on 45.9 FG%, 6.2 RPG, 2.2 APG and 1.8 SPG in 29.3 MPG off the bench.
Phoenix has a lot of depth at the wing position, particularly if leading-scorer Devin Booker has fully overcome his recent back issues. Opposing record aside, the Hornets will need to be fully locked in and more disruptive defensively this time around in order to win their fifth-straight overall meeting with the young Suns.
Game Note – Kemba Walker currently sits 12th in the NBA in scoring (25.2 PPG), while Phoenix’s Devin Booker is 14th (24.5 PPG)… The Hornets have a defensive rating of 100.7 points allowed per 100 possessions over their last three games (T-3rd in the NBA). Their defensive rating in five outings from Jan. 2-11 was 121.6 (28th in the NBA).
Classic Fact – The last time Charlotte and Phoenix had an All-NBA player was during the 2013-14 season, when both Al Jefferson and Goran Dragić were each Third-Team honorees.