2. Another game, another duel between All-Star guards
For the second straight game since making his first All-Star Game appearance, Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell will find himself matched up opposite another player who was in Charlotte last weekend for the world’s biggest pickup game.
The “battle” between Russell and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard was just about a draw on the individual level, as neither player performed particularly well. Russell was just 4-for-16 from the floor, hitting 2-of-9 from 3-point range, with 14 points and eight assists.
Lillard was just 5-for-21, hitting 2-of-9 from deep, with eight rebounds and eight dimes to go with 13 points.
The difference was the other guys — Russell was a minus-30 in the game, while Lillard was the inverse at plus-30.
On Saturday, Russell will lock horns with Charlotte Hornets All-Star Kemba Walker, the eighth-year pro who is having a career-year, averaging 25.0 points, 5.7 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 34.4 minutes per game on 42.9 percent shooting overall and 36.0 percent accuracy on 9.1 3-point attempts a game.
Efficiency-wise, Walker’s similar to Russell, who is putting up 20.2 points, 6.7 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 30.1 minutes per game on 43.3 percent shooting overall and 36.9 percent on 7.4 deep tries a game.
When the Hornets and Nets played a true home-and-home series in consecutive games on Dec. 26 and 28, Walker was cooking, scoring 64 points with 10 boards, eight assists, three steals and two blocks while hitting 52.2 percent overall and canning 52.4 percent from 3.
He scored 35 points in 44 minutes in a double-overtime loss at Barclays Center in the first meeting and had 29 in a relatively stress-free 35 minutes in Charlotte’s 100-87 win at home in the second game.
Russell had 16 points in 27 minutes in the win at home as Spencer Dinwiddie did the heavy lifting down the stretch, then carried the offense almost singlehandedly in the loss at Charlotte, scoring 33 points in 34 minutes.
Over the last three-plus seasons, Brooklyn is just 1-6 at Charlotte, with the lone victory coming nearly a year ago on March 8.
Based on the first two meetings, it might come down to whichever All-Star is forced to do the least to carry his team being the one that comes out on top.