VERIZON CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C., 7:00
Written by David W. Walters
Your Charlotte Hornets (2-2) are back on the road tonight as they visit the Verizon Center to face off against the Washington Wizards (4-1) in a southeast division matchup. This will be the second meeting between these two teams this preseason, as the Hornets beat the Wizards last Friday, 99-86.
Last time these two teams played, the Hornets led throughout the game as they exhibited a much better team defense than we had seen in the opener. The Wizards shot a paltry 37% from the field in Friday’s game, a percentage that would make it hard for any team to win a game, but the Hornets are coming off an awful shooting performance themselves shooting 34% in a 104-84 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.
At this point, the Hornets just need to focus on getting out of the preseason alive and somewhat healthy. Kemba Walker will sit out the game as he continues to recover from a knee contusion and Gerald Henderson suffered a setback after testing his hamstring out in practice. The Hornets suffered yet another backcourt injury on Thursday as guard Lance Stephenson sat out the end of practice with what appears to be a groin injury. More than likely he may sit out Fridays game as well, leaving either Gary Neal or rookie P.J. Hairston to start in his place.
The injuries so far this preseason has made it difficult for the Hornets to find much consistency and cohesion with a roster that features so many new faces. Stephenson, who figures to be a featured player this season, has struggled at times as he works his way into the teams system and Marvin Williams, who was signed to help fill the void Josh McRoberts left, has also had a slow start to the preseason and has struggled in his role as a stretch forward, shooting only 3-15 in four games so far. Meanwhile, rookie Noah Vonleh has begun a few 5-on-5 workouts but has yet to play this preseason and likely will sit out the teams remaining exhibitions.
An intriguing matchup to keep an eye on in this game is between Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Otto Porter, as both young wing players are showing off improved games so far. MKG has had a good start to the preseason, even though his retooled jump shot has been up and down so far. He has averaged 9.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per outing throughout the exhibition season so far in his quest to secure his role as the teams starting small forward this season. He has shot well from the free throw stripe though, which helps because of his penchant for driving to the basket and drawing contact. MKG has an opportunity to make a statement tonight due to the teams injuries on the wing, so hopefully he can have a strong performance a build some consistency moving forward.
Second year forward Porter didn’t get much of a chance to blossom last season as Trevor Ariza played better than expected, but he has made the most of this preseason, particularly as injuries to Bradley Beal, Martell Webster and Glen Rice have arisen. After a forgettable first game, Porter has averaged 14.5 points and just over five rebounds per game, including a 19 point, eight rebound, four assist and four steal game on Wednesday. Expect these two long, athletic forwards to go at each other in tonight’s matchup.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
PG Roberts Wall
SG Neal/Hairston Pierce
SF Kidd-Gilchrist Porter
PF Williams Nene
C Jefferson Gortat
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Photo credit: (NBAE/Getty Images)