You wouldn’t expect a game between the Charlotte Hornets (19-23) and San Antonio Spurs (25-19) to be a big event, but tonight is a big deal at AT&T Center.
That’s due to the return of former Spurs’ All-Star Tony Parker in a Hornets uniform — someone who still isn’t completely sure where the visitors’ locker room is. He’ll find out where tonight.
Unlike the vile hatred that San Antonio fans showed against former Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard a couple of weeks ago, you can expect the reception towards Parker to be a welcoming one. And that’s understandable for a guy who spent 17 years with the franchise and won multiple championships — four to be exact, along with an NBA Finals MVP in 2007. Parker is easily one of the most beloved players in the history of the Spurs franchise.
But Parker isn’t done with business in the league yet, he’s been solid for the Hornets this season coming off of the bench. He’s been productive putting up 9.4 PPG in 18.6 minutes-per-game. Parker has also hit the 24-point mark twice this season.
Though not as big of a deal as the Tony Parker situation, tonight also marks the return of rookie head coach James Borrego. Borrego spent four seasons as an assistant coach with San Antonio, and will now try to beat his former team with his Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets come into the game looking to get back in form after losing four out of their last five games — all on the road like tonight in San Antonio. Their most recent was a 104-97 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
These losses are quite alarming for the Hornets franchise as well, especially with Kemba Walker just absolutely lighting it up this season. He has 12 games with at least 30 points, only three away from his career-high. Charlotte, somehow, still maintains a losing record with Walker’s presence — this despite Nicolas Batum, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Malik Monk consistently hitting double figures themselves.
Another issue that the Hornets are facing is the turnover rate. Their last game against Sacramento, they tallied a horrendous 20 turnovers — just one shy of the team’s season-high.
For San Antonio, they’re coming off of a 122-112 road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night — this after another game between the two that resulted in double-overtime insanity. The Spurs would win by a crazy 154-147 score.
Despite productive numbers on offense from Marco Bellinelli, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio exposed their inconsistency on defense once again against Oklahoma City on Saturday. Carrying a 60-51 lead into halftime, the Spurs got outscored 35-20 in the third quarter which helped result in the loss.
In San Antonio’s defense, however, they aren’t completely healthy right now. Their starting guard Rudy Gay has been out four straight games with a sprained left wrist — he’s missed five out of the past seven. Gay is a pretty significant level of starpower for the Spurs being third on the team in scoring with 13.6 PPG, as well as being second in rebounding with 6.6 RPG. No timetable is currently set for Gay’s return.
All time, the history doesn’t look good for the Charlotte Hornets. They’re 15-41 overall against San Antonio and have lost 21 out of their last 28 played at San Antonio — this including an 11-game losing streak.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
CHECK THE NUMBERS
Despite six less wins on their resume, the Hornets come in with very similar numbers to the San Antonio Spurs. On the offensive side, they only have a -0.2 disadvantage at 112.1 PPG. Their shooting also isn’t far off, only sitting with a -2 disadvantage at 45.1 FG%. On the rebounding end, it’s once again a slim -0.1 disadvantage sitting at 44.6 RPG. Though another disadvantage on defense, it’s once again not that bad only being -3 at 112.3 PA. Hornets lose the statistical battle, but, not really.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
For the Spurs, they come in with the slim statistical edge and homecourt advantage. On the offensive side, they sit at +0.2 tallying 112.3 PPG for the year. On the shooting end, they carry the +2 advantage at 47.9 FG%. On the rebounding end, there’s that extraordinarily slim edge again at +0.1 at 44.7 RPG. A +3 advantage also goes in favor of San Antonio with a 109.5 PA mark. Though the numbers are slim, you still have to agree with the -8.5 odds due to the game being in San Antonio and the talent just being drastically better.
I expect the first quarter, maybe even the first half to be close in this game due to the emotion of Tony Parker’s return. That will also carry over to Kemba Walker and the rest of his teammates. But eventually, San Antonio should pull away for a considerably easy win after the emotion wears off.
After Kemba Walker and a 36-year old Tony Parker, the talent massively drops in comparison to the Spurs. I mean, come on, look at some of the members of San Antonio: LaMarcus Aldridge, Marco Belinelli, DeMar DeRozan, Pau Gasol, Patty Mills, Lonnie Walker IV, etc. Charlotte just can’t keep up, and it’s even worse on the road.
With the Hornets already losing four out of their last five on this six-game road trip and the history being completely against Charlotte, I can’t help but to envision a San Antonio Spurs blowout — followed by one last reunion and hug between Parker and the Spurs before the Hornets leave town.