Brooklyn Nets: 3 things to watch against road-averse Hornets

Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Brooklyn Nets open a home-and-home set Wednesday at Barclays Center against one of the worst road teams in the East, the Charlotte Hornets.

The Brooklyn Nets, winners of eight of their last nine games, gear up for their final home game of the calendar year Wednesday when they host the Charlotte Hornets in the first game of a home-and-home that concludes Friday in Charlotte.

The Nets (16-19) have stormed back into the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference during a hot December that has included an 8-4 record and improved play at home. The Nets are 5-3 at Barclays Center this month after winning just three of their first 11 games at home.

Charlotte (16-16) struggles away from home, with their 4-9 road mark the worst among the Eastern playoff contenders. The Hornets have lost nine of their last 11 as the visitor after opening the season with two straight road wins.

While Brooklyn coach Kenny Atkinson said Sunday he expected to get guard Allen Crabbe back after the holiday, the Nets reported Tuesday that Crabbe will miss his seventh consecutive game with a sore right knee.

That means Atkinson’s difficult decision on rookie Rodions Kurucs can be delayed a bit more.

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Kurucs replaced Crabbe in the starting lineup and has played extremely well, scoring 24 points in Friday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers and posting his first career double-double Sunday against the Phoenix Suns.

Kurucs has also drawn some tough defensive assignments over those two games, spending time covering Indiana All-Star Victor Oladipo as well as Devin Booker, the Suns’ leading scorer.

The Hornets are healthy and headlined by All-Star Kemba Walker, who is averaging 24.8 pointsm 4.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.4 steals in 34.6 minutes per game while shooting 42.6 percent overall and 34.9 percent from long range.

He is one of just three Hornets averaging double-figures, along with wing Jeremy Lamb (14.9 points per game) and reserve guard Malik Monk (10.7 points per game).

That first-year coach James Borrego has the Hornets at .500 is an impressive feat, considering the disjointed roster of the Hornets, who are near the tax threshold this season with a roster that features one star in Walker and lots of disappointment.

Per Jeff Siegel of Early Bird Rights, Walker is just the sixth-highest paid player on the Charlotte roster at $12 million, trailing Nicolas Batum ($24 million), Bismack Biyombo ($17 million), Marvin Williams ($14.09 million), Cody Zeller ($13.53 million) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ($13 million).

But at least Batum’s deal still has $25.57 million due next season with a $27.13 million player option for 2020-21, so there’s that.

Zeller still has two years and $29.89 million remaining while Biyombo ($17 million), Williams ($15.01 million) and Kidd-Gilchrist ($13 million) hold player options for next season.

While the Nets have been one of the NBA’s streakiest teams of late — eight straight losses immediately followed by seven consecutive wins, the Hornets have been almost a metronome of consistency when looking at their results.

The Hornets are at .500 for the season at 16-16, having posted records of 4-4 in October, 7-7 in November and 5-5 thus far in December.

By contrast, Brooklyn was 3-5 in October, 5-10 in November and in December is 8-4 so far.

Here are three things to watch when the Nets host Charlotte for a 7:30 p.m. Eastern tip on Wednesday.