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Without Barnes, Hornets Become Our NBA Pick vs. Home Chalk Clippers


Jason’s record as of Mar. 15: 51-48-4 ATS, 5-8 Totals, minus-1.00 units ML

There are worse things in the world than losing a basketball game. But the Charlotte Hornets still got thoroughly embarrassed Monday night by the Utah Jazz (–4.5 at home), who took a big early lead and never looked back in a 94-66 laugher. The Jazz shot 15-of-24 (62.5 percent) from downtown. The Hornets shot just 29.5 percent from the field. Al Jefferson was their highest-scoring starter with 10 points.

And now they get to do it all over again. Charlotte will have had less than 24 hours to recover before facing the Los Angeles Clippers, who just got Blake Griffin back in the lineup. Maybe the Hornets should just forget about this game and go see the sights. There’s the botanical gardens, or how about the marionette theater? No? Fine, suit yourselves. The Clippers are 9.5-point favorites on Tuesday’s NBA odds board.


Hive Mind
Hey, at least the Hornets (29-36 SU, 31-32-2 ATS) have Jefferson back. When we last left our heroes, they had to make do without arguably their best player against the Chicago Bulls. As expected, Bismack Biyombo (15.7 PER) stepped up with a solid performance in relief, posting a double-double in a 101-91 victory. The Hornets were favored by a single point at the Hive.

Jefferson (20.2 PER) ended up missing just the one game with his calf injury. He only played 24 minutes Monday night against his former team, as the Hornets wisely elected to give their reserves a little extra run with the game out of reach. But it was still a physical affair at times, and that trip from Salt Lake City to L.A. is more than a short taxi drive. On top of that, Cody Zeller (14.2 PER) remains doubtful to play on Tuesday.


Whiffin’ Force
Maybe we shouldn’t abandon the Hornets just yet. If you’re among the agnostics who think the Clippers (42-25 SU, 29-38 ATS) might be a better NBA pick  without Griffin in the lineup, the early results from his comeback were in your favor. While Griffin (22.8 PER) nearly had a triple-double (11 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists) in Sunday’s game against the Houston Rockets, he was also a minus-6 as the Rockets (+5 away) won 100-98.

To reiterate: We like Griffin as a player. He’s one of L.A.’s finest at plus-3.9 BPM, second only behind Chris Paul (24.7 PER, plus-6.6 BPM). But Griffin is not the MVP candidate some people think he is, not this year anyway. The Clippers went 9-6 SU and ATS while Griffin sat out the previous five weeks with a staph infection in his elbow. Factor in the added time Griffin needs to shake off the rust, and Los Angeles looks ripe for the fading.


Pulling Your Leg
Things got even tougher for L.A. when Matt Barnes (11.7 PER) aggravated his tender hamstring on Sunday after celebrating a bucket. He’s listed as questionable for Tuesday night’s matchup (10:30 p.m. ET). Not only is Barnes a pesky glue guy, he’s also fourth on the Clippers with a plus-1.7 BPM and a plus-1.8 VORP. Barnes had 19 points against the Rockets, hitting 5-of-9 from downtown and finishing the day at plus-2. His status can’t be overlooked.

Jamal Crawford (17.5 PER) is already out with a calf contusion, so here we are again questioning the Clippers’ depth. Nate Robinson (3.4 PER in 73 minutes) is getting another 10-day contract; he had seven points in nine minutes against Houston and was a plus-3, so maybe his game is rounding back into shape. Maybe. We’re going to roll with the Hornets provided Barnes is forced to sit this one out, and may the sphere be with you.

Free NBA Pick: Take Hornets at Pinnacle (if Barnes doesn’t play)