Hornets Looking to Get Right in Sacramento

By Sam Perley
by Sam Perley

The visiting Hornets are eyeing a 2-0 record on the second leg of back-to-backs on their current road trip as they quickly return to the court to battle the Sacramento Kings tonight starting at 10 p.m. ET.

Charlotte is now 1-3 on its Western Conference swing, including a 127-96 blowout loss in Portland last night in which the team allowed a season-high 70 first-half points. The good news is that the Hornets have won three straight games versus the Kings and five of their last six meetings overall. After a somewhat unexpected 19-16 start to the season, Sacramento has dropped five of seven outings since Dec. 27.

Jeremy Lamb has looked solid since his return from a three-game absence (right hamstring strain), having put up 15.5 PPG on 43.8 percent shooting over his last two outings. More so though, the lengthy Lamb’s defensive presence is much needed as he currently ranks second on the team in total deflections (74) and first in DRPG (career-best 4.8) through Jan. 10.

Lamb will have another tough assignment in this one in guarding third-year breakout guard Buddy Hield. Sacramento’s main prize in the DeMarcus Cousins deal two years ago, Hield is finally resembling the player New Orleans took sixth overall in 2016, having posted clips of 20.1 PPG on 47.8 percent shooting, 4.9 RPG and 2.3 APG over 42 games this season.

The Oklahoma product has quietly become one of the top distance shooters in the league, currently sitting third in three-point makes (136) and seventh in three-point percentage (44.4 percent) this year. Sacramento has other skilled sharpshooters in Nemanja Bjelica and Ben McLemore, but making sure Hield is accounted for should be the Hornets’ main defensive focus.

Game Note – Through Jan. 10, Sacramento leads the NBA in points off turnovers scored per game (21.4), while the Hornets are first in points off turnovers allowed per game (14.2). The Kings are also averaging more fast-break points per game than any team in the league (22.6) and are the second-quickest team in terms of pace (104.86 possessions per 48 minutes).

Classic Note – The Hornets acquired Gerald Wallace from the Sacramento Kings in the 2004 NBA Expansion Draft. Wallace, who averaged just 3.4 PPG and 2.1 RPG in three seasons with the Kings, ranks third in Charlotte franchise history in scoring (7,437 points), total rebounds (3,398) and blocks (531) and second in steals (827).