Sat, 04 Feb 2023

Clippers to meet Hornets with stars close to return

Field Level Media
05 Dec 2022, 06:05 GMT+10

When the Los Angeles Clippers show up for Monday night's game in Charlotte, the Hornets should be able to relate to their opponent's situation.

Injuries will make lineups unpredictable for both teams.

Charlotte is in its best stretch of a rough season so far despite Saturday night's 105-96 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Hornets have won three of their last five games, with the result against Milwaukee ending a three-game home winning streak.

The Clippers will make a cross-continent trip after losing Saturday at home to the Sacramento Kings. The 123-96 result was the most lopsided this season for the Clippers, who have dropped four of their last six games.

Norman Powell (groin strain) has been a recent addition to the Clippers' injury list, though it's likely that Paul George and Kawhi Leonard return to action during the current four-game East Coast road trip. Luke Kennard has been out with a calf strain since mid-November.

"We have to hold it up until they're back and then when they're back, hopefully soon, we can build some chemistry out on the court," said Clippers center Ivica Zubac, who is just three games removed from a 31-point, 29-rebound performance against the Indiana Pacers.

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said patience is the key in deciding when to bring back star players like George and Leonard.

"They definitely want to play," Lue said. "You have to be smart about it. At the right time, they're still rehabbing and we're trying to get to that point. Hopefully we can get to that on this trip. (We're) being optimistic about it. ... They're hurt, and they're doing everything they can to get back."

On the road, the Clippers have lost three of their last four games.

"We'll try to steal wins while those guys are out," Lue said. "These kinds of things build character. Being 13-11, there are positive things."

The Hornets received another dose of reality in losing to a short-handed Milwaukee team that was without Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Charlotte needs to have strong production in several areas in order to compete against most NBA teams.

Making only five 3-pointers, as they did against the Bucks, isn't going to get the job done.

"It's hard to win when you're minus-7 in the 3-point game," Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of a 21-point difference in scoring behind the 3-point arc. "We took a lot of really quick shots that weren't open. We haven't been doing that."

The Hornets are confident they have a formula to get the job done.

"We have so much talent that when we have everybody clicking, everybody in rhythm, touching the rock and doing what they do best, we're tough to guard on the offensive end," Charlotte guard Kelly Oubre Jr. said.

The Clippers have five different leading scorers across the last six games. Guard John Wall, who will be returning to his home state to play at Charlotte, has led Los Angeles in scoring in two of those games. He played only 12 minutes against Sacramento as the game got away early.

--Field Level Media

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