The Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets each bring a three-game losing streak into their matchup Friday night in Beantown. It's likely that Boston ends its streak because the C's are expecting their best player back, while Charlotte's will be missing.
Hornets point guard Kemba Walker is having his best season and should be an All-Star for the first time. He is the team's leading scorer at 22.6 points per game -- only four players in the Eastern Conference have more 20-point games this season -- and has been one of only three Hornets to have played in all 26 games this season. But Walker has left the team for a personal reason and won't play Friday, although he is expected back Saturday. Not a great time for Walker to leave as the Hornets are 0-3 on their five-game road trip. Veteran backup Ramon Sessions will start in Boston. He is averaging 6.1 points and 2.9 assists this season in a little more than 16 minutes per game.
The news is much better for Celtics All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas. He says he's playing Friday. Thomas, who averages 26.0 points and 6.1 assists, has missed the past four with a groin injury, and the Celtics are 1-3 without him. They haven't topped 101 points during their three-game skid but are favored on NBA odds here as long as Thomas does play. He ranks third in the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring average this season at 7.7 points per game.
Boston visited Charlotte on Oct. 29 and won 104-98. Thomas had 24 points and seven assists. Boston finished 15 of 31 from 3-point range, while the Hornets were just 9 of 32. Walker led the Hornets with 29 points.
Charlotte did win its final trip to Boston last year, its only victory in the three-game season series. The Celtics have won seven of the past 10 meetings overall. The Celtics are 5-1 ATS on NBA picks in the past six meetings.