Charlotte Hornets (13-22) at Los Angeles Clippers (15-19)
The return of Blake Griffin highlights the matchup of two teams desperately trying to stay relevant, between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Charlotte Hornets. Griffin returned Friday after missing over a month with an injury and looked great in his first game back, leading the Clippers to a blowout win over the Lakers. The Clippers have won four out of their last five and have reason to believe that better times are coming soon.
The Hornets are feeling pretty good about themselves as well at the moment, after beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors 111-100 Friday night, on the road. The Clippers are -2.5-point favorites tonight. The game total over-under is set at 213 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Clippers can’t be happy about how the post-Chris Paul era has begun in L.A. They are losing more than they are winning at 15-19 on the year, and if the season ended today, they would miss the playoffs in the Western Conference. They have reason to be hopeful though as things appear to be looking up for the “other” team in L.A.
Superstar Blake Griffin is finally back after missing a month with an injury, and the Clippers feel like they can make a run to the playoffs now that their leader is back on the floor. Griffin impressed in his first game back, dropping 24 points and leading his team to a blowout victory over the hated Lakers. They will need Griffin to shake off any rust quickly as they need to start winning right now if they are going to get back into the playoff picture.
The Clippers have struggled without Paul running the floor and are 27th in the league in assists. Austin Rivers, who has done a somewhat serviceable job for the Clippers at the point, is day to day with an injury and is likely to miss this game or be limited. They will need to find someone else to bring the ball up the court and facilitate if they are going to survive this one.
The Hornets winning at Golden State on Friday night was a shocking outcome. Even though the Warriors were without Steph Curry, not many expected the Hornets to go into Oakland and knock off the champs. But they did, and even though the season isn’t going how they had envisioned it, they are hanging their heads high entering the new year.
Charlotte has a star point guard in Kemba Walker, but the rest of the roster is a bit up in the air. Jeremy Lamb is having a breakout year, and Frank Kaminsky looks to be improving. Big man Dwight Howard is also showing that he isn’t quite washed up yet as he is bringing down 12 boards a game to go with his 16 points. Wins have been few and far between for Charlotte this season, but that 7-8 line in the Eastern Conference is always a soft one, so they aren’t completely out of it yet.
To me, this is a classic let down game for the Hornets. They got up on Friday night and beat their chest to the nobody believes in us tune, and beat Golden State. It was a great win, but now they have to stay on the road and play at an average at best Clippers team tonight. It is easy to get fired up to play the champs, not so easy to play another game on the road against the Clippers and keep that level of intensity.
The Clippers are having just the opposite effect. They just had a big emotional boost getting Griffin back, and they are playing on their home court on New Year’s Eve, and I expect the Staples Center to be rocking and the Clippers to come out full of energy. It wouldn’t shock me to see Charlotte to come out completely flat and get behind double digits right away.
This line is actually moving towards Charlotte as the Clippers opened up as -3-point favorites and it has dropped to -2.5 and I even see some -2 lines out there. I always love to get positioned on the other side of the betting public, and it looks like the public is on Charlotte today. Give me the Clippers in a not as close as people think win, covering the -2.5 points.