What: Charlotte Hornets (1-2) at Houston Rockets (0-3)
When: 8:00pm Eastern
Where: Toyota Center; Houston, TX
How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Outfitting: Hornets–Association (white), Rockets–Icon (red)
Lines: Hornets +2.5, O/U 222.5
Hornets: Cody Martin-out (knee), James Bouknight-out (knee), Frank Ntilikina-out (leg)
Rockets: Tari Eason-out (leg)
The Hornets get a chance to give a team their first win of the season for the second consecutive game. They’re coming off an ugly showing against the previously winless Brooklyn Nets where they looked out of sorts on both ends of the floor. Now they sit at 1-2 after what was a relatively easy three game home stand to start the season. Rookie Brandon Miller has played well and Mark Williams has had moments, but it otherwise hasn’t been too exciting of a season thus far.
Tonight’s opponent is a Rockets team that was supposed to make a jump after the offseason acquisitions of Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks. That jump hasn’t happened yet with the Rockets sitting at 0-3 and hardly looking competitive to this point. They were blown out by the Magic by 30 in their opener and their -15.0 average point differential thus far is the worst in the league. They rank in the bottom five in the league in offense, defense, and rebounding. So naturally they’re 2.5 point favorites over the Hornets.
The biggest problem for the Rockets has been their bench. The on/off discrepancies between their starters and their bench players is wild. The sample size is small, but all four of the five starters have on/off ratings better than +25.0 (VanVleet is the only exception). Meanwhile they’ve been outscored by a total of 43 points in the 51 minutes Jae’Sean Tate has played. Rookie Amen Thompson is right behind him at -31 in 54 minutes. Thompson finished with a -34 in 21 minutes in the season opening loss to the Magic.
That’s not to say all of the failings are on those players, but something clearly isn’t working with the second unit. This would be a good place for the Hornets to take advantage, but their bench unit hasn’t really been lighting it up either other than Miller. If they can find their rhythm, they can be a key component of a Hornets win.
Alpere Sengun has been the Rockets best player thus far–he’s averaging 19.3 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game. The matchup between he and Mark Williams, who are almost total opposites as centers, will be an interesting one that’ll also go a long way towards deciding the game. Jalen Green and Fred VanVleet have been fine but inefficient while Jabari Smith hasn’t taken the year two leap you might’ve expected after the summer league and some of the preseason he had. Dillon Brooks is just Dillon Brooks, who I’ll forever maintain is the best bad pickup basketball player of all time. You know the type. The dude that just fouls everybody and tries hard and is somehow an effective player even though he never seems like he actually knows what he’s doing.
The Hornets get out of the friendly confines of Spectrum Center. Dell Curry has said it on broadcasts before, but sometimes getting away from home can help refocus a team if stuff isn’t going well. Let’s hope that’s the case, because a third straight loss to a team that isn’t supposed to make the playoffs would hurt.