A pair of Eastern Conference teams clawing to secure a playoff spot will clash at Barclays Center when the Brooklyn Nets host the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, March 1 at 7:30 PM ET on NBA League Pass.
If the playoffs started today, the Nets (32-31) would have the 6th seed and the Hornets (28-33) the 8th. If their last matchup is any indication, there are sure to be fireworks in Brooklyn tomorrow night.
Down by as much as 8 points with 3 minutes left, D’Angelo Russell carried the Nets past the finish line, outscoring the entire Hornets team 12 points to 4, and tying a career-high 40 points on his 23rd birthday. Russell had stepped foot on the Spectrum Center court earlier that week as a first-time All Star repping Team Giannis.
The Nets beat the Hornets 117-115 after Caris LeVert blocked a three-point attempt by Kemba Walker as the buzzer sounded. The Charlotte fans booed thinking their franchise point guard got fouled, and will hope their squad gets a W this time around.
Since then, the Hornets have lost two more games, coming up short against Western Conference powerhouses, the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. A win against Brooklyn would be huge, given the playoff implications, especially with Orlando and Miami right on their tails in the standings.
Kemba Walker is going to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and missing the postseason would be a huge blow to both Walker and the Charlotte organization. The three-time All-Star point guard should have no shortage of suitors in free agency, and the Hornets will likely have to ink Walker to a max deal if they want to keep him as the face of the franchise.
The Nets on the other hand, followed up the win in Charlotte with another dub against the San Antonio Spurs at home, but dropped the ball against the Washington Wizards last night, losing by 9 points. After starting the game on a 10-0 run, Brooklyn deflated, allowing the Wizards to run them off their own court, 125-116. If the Nets lose tomorrow night, they’ll find themselves at .500 on the season once more.
Spencer Dinwiddie is expected to return to the lineup against the Hornets after time off with a thumb injury. It couldn’t come at a better time, as the Nets will have the opportunity to prepare for the postseason with Russell, Dinwiddie and LeVert all together again.
Both teams are coming off of tough losses, but should come out swinging. The season series is 2-1 in favor of Brooklyn, meaning Charlotte’s best case scenario is tying it up with a win tomorrow night.
Walker started this season off on a tear, but has fallen back to Earth with his surrounding team following suit. It’s not outrageous to say that the Hornets are a one-man show courtesy of Kemba, which cannot be said for Brooklyn.
Earlier this year, it was Caris LeVert who was poised to be a breakout star, energizing Brooklyn with game-winners before going down with a leg injury. Since then, Dinwiddie and Russell have taken the reins, with the latter becoming an All-Star. As a Most Improved Player candidate, DLo leads the Nets, but their roster is full of guys who know their role and excel in their respective department.
With their first matchup ending in double overtime and the last one going down to the wire, the competitiveness between these two teams cannot be denied. But with the Nets being the better overall team, they should win the regular season series and take home the W.
Prediction: Brooklyn Nets defeat the Charlotte Hornets