The Charlotte Hornets are coming off their best win of the season, just in time to face the suddenly-surging Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. The Hornets knocked off the Golden State Warriors in the opener of their four-game California trip and are going up against a Clippers squad that won four of its last five contests.
Charlotte leaned on center Dwight Howard in its 111-100 win over the Warriors on Friday, which marked just their fifth win in the last 18 games. Howard scored a season-high 29 points to go with 13 rebounds and a season-high seven assists on Friday but is about to face a stiffer defensive challenge in Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers’ star center hauled in at least 14 rebounds in each of the last 12 games and got some support in the frontcourt on Friday with the return of power forward Blake Griffin (knee), who scored 24 points in 32 minutes in the 121-106 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers after sitting out the previous 14 contests. “Oh, it was great,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers told reporters of Griffin’s return. “The first eight minutes of the game, you couldn’t ask for better basketball. They came out and attacked. What I liked most was Blake just kind of joined in.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Charlotte), FSN Prime Ticket (Los Angeles)
ABOUT THE HORNETS (13-22): Charlotte will be trying to secure its first consecutive wins since a three-game streak from Nov. 18-22, and the team felt like it played its best on Friday. “There was a lot to like,” associate head coach Stephen Silas told reporters. “Our defense was really, really good. We got off to a slow start and the Warriors do what they do early in the game, but we just hung with it and stayed with our game plan. Got some big stops and that fueled our offense... Everybody played their part. It was a great, great win.” The one point of concern is star guard Kemba Walker, who went 5-of-16 from the floor on Friday and is shooting 38.4 percent in December.
ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (15-19): Los Angeles went into a tailspin when Griffin first went down, dropping four straight and seven of 10, but began to play well two weeks ago with a stretch that includes a win over the Houston Rockets, and Griffin is just hoping to add to that success. “It felt good,” Griffin told the Los Angeles Daily News. “I didn’t have second thoughts. I didn’t have any moments where I didn’t trust it, so that was important. Mostly it was important just mixing back in with the guys. I think we’ve been playing really hard and playing the right way.” The Clippers are averaging 118.2 points in the last five games after failing to score more than 91 in any of the previous three contests.
1. Clippers G Austin Rivers suffered a strained right Achilles on Friday and is day-to-day.
2. Howard is enjoying a string of three straight double-doubles.
3. Charlotte snapped a six-game losing streak in the series by easing past Los Angeles 102-87 at home on Nov. 18.
PREDICTION: Clippers 115, Hornets 108