Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets
When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, November 7, 2019
Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte, North Carolina
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
CHARLOTTE – Kemba Walker spent the first eight seasons of his career and made three All-Star teams as a member of the Charlotte Hornets before leaving in free agency over the summer and joining the Boston Celtics. Walker will make his first trip back to Charlotte when the Celtics visit the Hornets tonight.
Walker made it clear at the start of free agency that he would take less than the supermax to stay in Charlotte but was not impressed with the offer from the team and instead turned to Boston, where he is averaging 26 points in the first of a four-year, $141 million deal.
“He’s tough,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters of Walker after he led the team to a 104-102 win over New York on Friday. “He’s fearless in the paint. He’s got an athletic ability that very few people talk about. He has the ability to just stop. He has the ability to decelerate and boom, pop right up. He gets fouled a lot because of that.”
The Hornets are rebuilding around a young roster and come into Thursday’s meeting with some momentum after rallying from a 19-point deficit to force overtime and beat the Indiana Pacers 122-120 on Tuesday. Charlotte won its last three games and is using a balanced attack with five different players leading the team in scoring through seven games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, NBCS Boston
ABOUT THE CELTICS (5-1): While Walker will be the headliner in his former home, Boston is getting just as much from resurgent swingman Gordon Hayward, who scored 39 points on 17-of-20 shooting in Tuesday’s 119-113 victory at Cleveland. “I think there’s obviously been more opportunities this year,” Hayward, who suffered through an inconsistent 2018-19 season after returning from a devastating leg injury, told reporters. “We’re running some things that I am comfortable doing. As long as I keep attacking, not overthinking the game, being hesitative, I should be fine.” Hayward became the first player since Wilt Chamberlain and the only player since the 3-point line was introduced to go 16-of-16 from inside the arc when he turned the trick on Tuesday.
ABOUT THE HORNETS (4-3): Terry Rozier went from Boston to Charlotte and is averaging 16.9 points while starting in Walker’s old spot, but it was backup point guard Devonte’ Graham doing the damage with a career-high 35 points in Tuesday’s win. “To continue to play this way, to be poised and unphased, (Devonte’s) grown right before our eyes,” Hornets coach James Borrego told reporters. “I trust him, believe in him and I think that’s apparent. I think our guys do, also. He’s a special player and a winner.” Graham, who slumped to a season-low four points on 1-of-8 shooting at Golden State on Saturday before breaking out against the Pacers, leads the team in assists at an average of 6.7.
- Celtics SG Jaylen Brown (illness) sat out the last three games and is day-to-day.
- Hornets rookie PF PJ Washington (leg contusion) left Tuesday’s game and is questionable for Thursday.
- The home team took each of the last five meetings.
PREDICTION: Celtics 113, Hornets 109