Charlotte Hornets at Portland Trail Blazers
Time: 9 PM CT (NBA League Pass)
Spread: POR -6
Betting odds c/o 5dimes
The Portland Trail Blazers continue to hang around. Not expected to be a major threat in 2016, the Trail Blazers have won six of its past 10 games to cling to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference. It will host the Charlotte Hornets tonight as 6-point favorites in a game which will air at 9 PM on NBA League Pass.
The Blazers won their past two contests over the L.A. Lakers and Sacramento Kings, both wins coming by an average of 16.5 points. In the 112-97 win over the Kings, Portland got 18 points on 7 of 16 shooting from C.J. McCollum, and Damian Lillard had a double-double with 15 points and 13 assists. Portland held the Kings to 41.9 percent shooting while shooting 48.9 percent itself as a team.
McCollum has stayed on fire. He is averaging 22.4 points and three assists over his past five games while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range over that span. Lillard was recently snubbed of an All-Star selection despite averages of 24.3 points, 7.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game. The West is reasonably stacked at guard for such a standout season to fall shy of a spot as a reserve.
After McCollum and Lillard though, the Blazers are short on weapons. Allen Crabbe and Al-Farouq Aminu both average double figures, but the Blazers have no stand out talents in its frontcourt. Mason Plumlee and Meyers Leonard are a good two-headed monster at center, but neither is defensively minded enough to keep Portland from being abused by opposing frontcourts.
The tandem of centers combine to average 18.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 1.24 blocks per game. If Portland can add a rim protecting big man in the 2016 draft, it should help the team make the next step towards contention in this rebuild. Few just even expected the rebuild to include a potential return trip to the postseason already this season.
The Hornets had a three-game win streak snapped by a 102-73 loss to the Utah Jazz last night. Kemba Walker shot 7 of 11 for 15 points and five rebounds, but none of his fellow starters reached double-figures in scoring. The Hornets got 13 points from Brian Roberts off the bench, but Charlotte trailed by 12 at the half after scoring just 31 points in the first half of the game.
The Hornets managed just 13 points in the second quarter as the Jazz pulled away early.
Walker has averaged 20.5 points, five assists and four rebounds per game this season as the only Hornet to post a PER over 20. Nicolas Batum returned to the lineup after his toe injury and he had six points, 10 rebounds and two assists in 30 minutes in the loss to Utah.
The Hornets needed him back in the lineup as the team’s second-leading scorer and jack-of-all-trades of sorts. Batum has tallied 14.9 points, 5.3 assists and 6.4 rebounds a night while filling a much more encompassing role than he did during his time in Portland. Tonight will offer the Blazers a chance to see what Batum can be when a wealth of the offense is commanded by his talents.
The Hornets may shop the expiring contract of Al Jefferson at the trade deadline too. He has played in just 19 games this season nursing both injuries and a suspension from the league for violation of the substance abuse policies. Jefferson already was playing very mediocre basketball, and the Hornets have both Cody Zeller and Frank Kaminsky to develop.
There is no place for a discontented underachiever like Jefferson has become.