Suns & Hornets Have Mailed It In, So Expect Hands-Off Defense

horents suns

Matthew Jordan

Friday, March 9, 2018 5:27 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 9, 2018 5:27 PM UTC

In the clear marquee matchup of Saturday -- from a lottery perspective -- either the Suns or Hornets will end a losing streak when they face off in Charlotte.

Phoenix (19-48, 30-35-2 ATS) at Charlotte (28-38, 27-35-4 ATS)Free NBA Pick: Hornets & OverBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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Perhaps in deference to all the NCAA conference tournaments, just five games on the NBA schedule Saturday and it’s an unusual 5 p.m. ET tipoff from Charlotte as the Suns make their only visit of the season. My guess for the early start time? The Hornets are well aware most basketball fans in that area of the country will care much more about watching the ACC Tournament title game, which starts at 8:30 p.m. ET from Brooklyn. We’ll have a preview of there for you here at SBR as well.

These two teams have split the season series in three straight years, but that will only continue should Phoenix pull the upset on Saturday. On Feb. 4, the Hornets were 6.5-point favorites in Phoenix (total 220) and won 115-110. Phoenix led 78-57 with just under eight minutes to go in the third quarter, but Charlotte went on a 49-18 run over the next 13 minutes – largely led by the bench.

Charlotte's reserves outscored their Phoenix counterparts 45-27. Nic Batum led the Hornets with 22 points, and Dwight Howard had 18 points and 14 rebounds but the team was outscored by 16 with him on the court. How often do you see a club lose when it shoots 53.2 percent compared to its opponent’s 41.7 percent? Yet that was the case for the Suns, who also were 15-for-29 from deep and didn’t miss a free throw. Alas, they had 19 turnovers which led to 27 Hornets points. Rookie Josh Jackson led Phoenix with 23 points on 10-for-14 shooting.

The home team is 5-0 ATS in the past five meetings.

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Lottery Awaiting These Two

Both teams are playing out the string, as has usually been the case for Charlotte and Phoenix at this point of the season this decade. Both have also mailed it in, with the Hornets losers of five straight and the Suns four in a row and 14 of 15.

No team has suffered more 20-plus point losses this year than the Suns, and they added to that total Thursday in a 115-87 defeat in Oklahoma City. Second-leading scorer T.J. Warren sat out with back spasms, and then the promising rookie Jackson, who started for Warren, left with a knee issue. An MRI was negative, so that’s good news. Still unclear if either plays here, with Warren especially affecting the spread. Devin Booker had 30 points in the loss and is averaging 32.0. ppg in his past seven.

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Coach Clifford, @KembaWalker​ and @CodyZeller​ spoke after Thursday's 125-111 loss to the @BrooklynNets​ about the team's defensive struggles and where the game turned for the Hornets #BuzzCity pic.twitter.com/ZM8tmBQOIz

— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) March 9, 2018
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Charlotte had a playoff pulse after winning a fifth straight game on Feb. 27, but then the scheduled stiffened and it hasn’t won since. The Hornets players essentially never left the locker room Thursday in a 125-111 home loss to Brooklyn. Steve Clifford labeled the performance "totally unacceptable." Yep. Clifford probably won’t survive this season.

The Hornets are in the process of looking for a new general manager to replace Rich Cho, who was fired last month. Never wish anyone to lose their job but there simply had to be a shakeup in the Hornets’ front office. Check out the team’s first-round picks the past few years and you can see why the Hornets will miss the playoffs for the sixth time in eight years:

  • 2017: Malik Monk, No. 7 overall
  • 2016: Malachi Richardson, No. 22
  • 2015: Frank Kaminsky, No. 9
  • 2014: Noah Vonleh, No. 9
  • 2013: Cody Zeller, No. 4
  • 2012: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, No. 2
  • 2011: Kemba Walker, No. 9

Only Walker has become a good player, and he might be traded this offseason. Monk barely plays, and the Hornets could have taken Donovan Mitchell or Kyle Kuzma. Richardson was traded to the Kings immediately and was a bust. In 2015, the Celtics offered a ton of picks to move up to No. 9, but the Hornets wouldn’t bite and took Kaminsky, a decent pro but nothing special, over the likes of Myles Turner and the Suns’ Booker.

Vonleh is a bust and now not playing on his third team. Zeller is meh, but that whole 2013 class stunk for the most part outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter. Kidd-Gilchrist unfortunately was the consolation prize after the Hornets didn’t win the lottery despite a historically bad season and missed out on Anthony Davis.

Charlotte is stuck in purgatory: Not good enough for the playoffs but not bad enough to get a high lottery pick. At least Phoenix has Booker and Jackson to build around.

So, I guess I need to make a pick in a game neither team gives a s**t about. When that’s the case, defense usually suffers. The Suns are 30th in the NBA defensively (113.4 ppg allowed), while the Hornets are surrendering 120 per game over the past five. The ‘over’ is 6-0 in the past seven meetings. Make it seven straight for a Saturday NBA pick. Hornets should also cover simply being home.

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