The slumping Charlotte Hornets could get leading scorer Kemba Walker back in the lineup Monday night when they host the Orlando Magic. Walker, who is averaging 22.3 points and scored 34 in a 120-113 victory over Orlando on Oct. 29, practiced fully on Sunday and is on track to return after missing the previous two games with a sore left shoulder.
Walker’s presence would be a welcome sight for the Hornets, who have dropped four in a row to fall below the Magic in the Southeast Division after Friday’s 105-100 setback at Miami in which they allowed 14 makes from 3-point range. “I’m good. Just get back out there and do what I do and be a leader. We’ve been struggling lately,” Walker told the Charlotte Observer. “I hate missing games. It was tough watching, especially because we lost.” Walker might be facing a rejuvenated Orlando team, which won for only the second time in 12 games after outlasting New York 105-100 on Sunday with 34 points and 12 rebounds from center Nikola Vucevic and just enough improvement on defense. “We’ve gotta start defending, even better than we did (Sunday),” Orlando coach Frank Vogel told reporters. “We made some progress (against the Knicks), but we’ve got to be better.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Florida (Orlando), FSN Southeast (Charlotte)
ABOUT MAGIC (10-14): Vucevic rebounded from a season-low six points against Golden State on Friday by draining 13-of-19 from the field against the Knicks while adding three assists and a pair of blocks. Aaron Gordon cooled off a bit with just 10 points Sunday after scoring 69 in the previous two combined and Evan Fournier has posted back-to-back 20-point outings for the first time since stringing six together from Oct. 24-Nov. 3. Point guard Elfrid Payton has shot at least 50 percent from the field in six straight games and is averaging 15.5 points during that stretch.
ABOUT HORNETS (8-13): Veteran center Dwight Howard saw his six-game streak of double-doubles end Friday as he was held to 10 points and nine boards, but is in the top 10 of the league in rebounding (12.5) and field-goal percentage (58 percent). Shooting guard Jeremy Lamb is second on the team in scoring (15.9) and Frank Kaminsky has made an impact off the bench this season, averaging 11 points (13.0 in the past three games). Marvin Williams poured in 16 points in Friday’s loss - his second-highest output this season - after averaging four the previous two games.
1. Charlotte has won eight straight meetings, scoring at least 107 points in all of them and 120 or more in four.
2. The Hornets entered Sunday 28th in the league in free-throw shooting percentage (72.3).
3. Orlando SG Terrence Ross, who is averaging nine points, missed the last two games and is out indefinitely with a sprained right MCL.
PREDICTION: Hornets 111, Magic 100