March 30, 2021 (updated)
Photo: Chris Carlson / AP
The Charlotte Hornets will play a rare nationally televised game against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday evening, the second matchup between the two teams this season. The Hornets-Nets contest will be covered by the TNT crew, marking a rare appearance on the prime-time slate.
The Hornets faced the Nets back in December in the third game of the season, taking home a 106-104 win against a pre-James Harden Brooklyn team on the back of a 28-point performance by Gordon Hayward and a monster dunk by Terry Rozier on Kevin Durant. Things will look different with Harden settled in as an MVP candidate on one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference, but the Nets will be without Durant, who has missed well over a month with a hamstring injury.
TERRY ROZIER THREW IT ON KD. 🤯🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/4NCc7rysqt
— House of Highlights (@HoHighlights) December 28, 2020
Brooklyn boasts the league’s eighth-best net rating (3.8), though their defensive rating (113.4) ranks 25th. With a core composed of two of the best scorers in recent NBA history and one of the best 3-point shooters currently in the league (Joe Harris), it’s a given that the Nets’ offense is still going to be their calling card. Since adding Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market, the firepower has only grown stronger.
Charlotte’s defense has stepped it up at the right time; the Hornets’ defensive rating (105.4) is up to sixth in the NBA over the last five games, which passes the eye test after they recently held the Phoenix Suns to 101 points in an overtime loss and 104 points to the Washington Wizards in a 10-point win. PJ Washington has been better with rim protection in head coach James Borrego’s small-ball lineups, Devonte’ Graham’s aggressiveness in containing perimeter players has made it easier for bigs to recover, and Miles Bridges has been active on the glass. The Hornets will need every bit of defense they can find if they wish to limit Harden and Irving.
There’s also a slight chance this is a preview of a first-round playoff matchup for the Hornets if they were to advance past the play-in tournament. Brooklyn is currently second in the East standings while the Hornets are fourth, and with how close seeds four through nine are, there’s no telling exactly where any team ends up come mid-May. All it would take is a short slide in the wrong direction for the Hornets to be staring down the barrel of not only the play-in, but also a matchup with Brooklyn (or Philadelphia, or Milwaukee) in the first round.
The Hornets take on the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. on TNT.