The Utah Jazz (17-11) are riding a somewhat expected four-game winning streak going into the second game of their east coast road trip, taking on the Charlotte Hornets (13-18) in the Spectrum Center. The Hornets are pretty mediocre this season, but at least coach James Borrego has turned it over to the young guns, unlike his predecessor Steve Clifford’s tendencies to rely on “vetzzz” like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, and Nic Batum. They’ve turned it over entirely to relatively recently drafted players (and Terry Rozier): 2019 12th pick PJ Washington, 2018 12th pick Miles Bridges, 2013 4th pick Cody Zeller, and 2018 34th pick Devonte’ Graham (more on him later). 2017 lottery pick Malik Monk and 2017 2nd round pick Dwayne Bacon feature prominently off the bench, as well as Bobnets OG Bismack Biyombo and the aforementioned Marvin Williams. It’s a hodgepodge of new and old talent with no real stars, a pretty mediocre floor, and a low ceiling - just another year as a Hornets team. Of course, being in the Eastern Conference, they’re still the 9th seed, behind the (12-16) Orlando Magic. The Hornets are somewhat respectable (4-6) against western conference teams, but all four wins have come against the Kings and the Warriors.
The Jazz don’t really look like worldbeaters either, in spite of the four game streak. In the game against Orlando, the Jazz were up 16 near the end of the 3rd quarter, lost a 8-32 run over the next 8 minutes, and squeaked out a win behind Donovan heroics. Donovan had to repeat those heroics again in the 4th against the Hawks with some help from Rudy’s defense (give Rudy some rest about those free throws, though!). That said, against a guard-heavy team like the Hornets, I want Donovan, Royce and Jingles put the clamps on while Quin to tries some new lineups. Dante Exum, Miye Oni, Juwan Morgan, and Jarrell Brantley can’t possibly do worse than a 24 point deficit in eight minutes. Give the deep bench some real time to shine like the Raptors’ Terence Davis and Fred Van Vleet or Miami’s Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson, or even the Hornets, with Devonte Graham.
When: Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019 • 3:00 PM MT
Where: Spectrum Center • Charlotte, NC
TV: AT&T Sports Net Rocky Mountain, Fox Sports South East - Charlotte
Radio: 97.5 FM | 1280 AM The Zone, WFNZ 610 AM/102.5 FM
What to watch for
Look, I understand if you don’t watch many Hornets games, I don’t myself. But Devonte Graham is legitimately a frontrunner for Most Improved Player. Who, you might ask? No, not Treveon Graham, now with the Timberwolves, who played for the Hornets two years ago. The 34th pick of the 2018 NBA draft, stashed away in the G-League Greensboro Swarm for most of the 2018-19 season, Devonte’ is enjoying a breakout season. With Kemba Walker leaving for Boston and Charlotte receiving (overpaying) Terry Rozier, Devonte has locked down a starting spot since three weeks into the season in a double-pg lineup. He leads the Hornets in minutes, scoring, and assists at 34.3, 19.1, and 7.5 per game, respectively. The last is a top ten statistic in the entire NBA, tied with James Harden and ahead of Russell Westbrook, Nikola Jokic, and Chris Paul. Everybody loves a breakout story, and Devonte’ makes the Hornets interesting with his ability to pull up and splash long range shots (especially game winners). Look out for him tonight.
Game Thread Ground Rules
Welcome to the SLC Dunk Game Thread.
Dunkers know how this thing works, but for you lurkers ready to make the jump to Dunker, we have a few guidelines. Remember to follow our community guidelines (no swearing, trolling, excessive use of Jerry Sloan’s name in vain, no personal attacks, no debates about Utah liquor laws, etc.). Remember to have fun. Anyone who dare blasphemes that Tim Duncan was a Power Forward (this means you, Pounding the Rock), Ben Simmons can hit threes, Gordon Hayward should not be booed, Exum Island isn’t a 5-Star resort, Donovan Mitchell is Monta Ellis 2.0, men should never cry, or John Stockton is not the best point guard of all-time will receive an automatic ban. Just kidding. But seriously.