The Runner Sports

It Could All Come Down To Tonight For The Charlotte Hornets

The Charlotte Hornets have come back from the dead in the past two weeks to put themselves back in the playoff race. The Hornets suffered a setback last night in a 106-101 loss to division rival Washington. With four games left, and two games back of the last playoff spot, the Hornets barely have any room for error. That is why tonight’s home game against the Miami Heat is critical. Currently, the Heat are a half game out of eighth, and a game and half up on the Hornets. In the season series, the Hornets are up 2-1, with a win tonight they would get the tiebreaker over Miami. This is why tonight’s game is so critical for the Hornets. The Hornets may not be able to afford another loss, and a tiebreaker over Miami could prove to be huge. Here’s how the Charlotte Hornets can win tonight.

Keys to Victory! 

Luckily for the Hornets, this game is at home, where they are a respectable 22-17. Home court may not be enough though vs a very tough Miami team. Miami is 5th in total defense, and make you work for every basket. They have an elite rim protector is Hassan Whiteside, and versatile wing defenders in James Johnson and Rodney Mcgruder.

The first key will be to get Whiteside in foul trouble. This will open up more penetration, which will lead to more layups and kick outs to open threes. Kemba Walker will be key in attacking the body of Whiteside early to try to get him in some early foul trouble.

The second key will be to limit easy baskets for Miami. This means layups by Goran Dragic, lobs for Whiteside, and threes for the shooters. Miami had six threes in the fourth in their last win vs the Hornets, and that can’t happen again. Dion Waiters is out for the Heat, so the Hornets caught a break there. Kemba and Cody Zeller have to be great in stopping Miami’s go to play of the Dragic/Whiteside pick and roll. The key will be to force Dragic to shoot jumpers and for Whiteside to finish over the top of Zeller.

The last key, and this is a major key, someone besides Kemba needs to step up offensively for the Hornets. Last night against Washington, Kemba had 37 points, the next highest scorer was Marco Belinelli with 16. That can’t happen again tonight. On the nights the Hornets sorely rely on Kemba, they lose. Someone like Nicholas Batum, Frank Kaminsky, and Marco Belinelli needs to step up with a big game. This will take the pressure off of Kemba, so the Heat’s defense can’t focus on him as much. Kemba’s penetration will become more deadly if Charlotte’s shooters are cooking. If the Charlotte Hornets do these three things, they have a good chance to win.

Going Forward! 

If the Hornets win this game their record will improve to 37-42, and the Heat will fall to 37-41. So the Heat will still be a half game ahead of the Hornets. However, as I mentioned earlier, the Hornets would have the tiebreaker over Miami. The four other teams that the Hornets are chasing (the Pacers, Bulls, Hawks, and Bucks) are all off tonight. Meaning the most the Hornets can move up is from two games back of the Pacers for eighth, to a game and half behind them.

After tonight’s game against Miami, the Hornets have three tough games left. They are home vs Boston on Saturday, at Milwaukee on Monday, and at Atlanta on Tuesday. All three are tough games vs playoff teams. That is why ESPN’s playoff odds only put Charlotte’s chances at 9%.

The Bulls have a much easier schedule with two games against the Nets, one against the Sixers, and one against the Magic. The Pacers also have games against the Sixers and Magic, and two home games vs the Bucks and Hawks. The Hawks have the toughest schedule with two games vs Cleveland left, a game against Boston, a game at Indiana, and home to Charlotte. Since they have been playing terribly lately, they may be the team to catch. Milwaukee’s schedule isn’t easy with games at Boston and at Indiana, but they also have Charlotte at home and a game vs the Sixers. They are also most likely too far ahead for the Charlotte Hornets to catch anyway.

This is why tonight’s game against the Heat is so critical. If they win they give themselves a fighting chance, if they lose it’s time to start talking lottery. Tune in at 7 PM ET to see what happens!