Nicolas Batum
Hornets-Suns Preview
Nicolas Batum

Hornets-Suns Preview

Published Jan. 6, 2016 12:25 a.m. ET

Injuries continue to pile up during the Charlotte Hornets' four-game losing streak, though the outlook could still be worse.

Just ask the Phoenix Suns.

The Hornets hope to end their longest skid of the season by pinning a 10th consecutive loss on the wayward Suns when the slumping teams square off Wednesday night.

Charlotte (17-17) has fallen back in a competitive Southeast Division by dropping nine of 12 as several key players have missed time. Center Al Jefferson, currently sidelined by knee surgery, has played just twice since Nov. 30, versatile wing Nicolas Batum (sprained toe) has missed the last two games and guard Jeremy Lin (ankle sprain) sat out two straight prior to returning Saturday against Oklahoma City.


Batum, second on the team in scoring (16.3 points per game) and rebounding (6.5 rpg), is considered questionable for Wednesday. The Hornets were dealt yet another blow, however, when guard Jeremy Lamb suffered wrist and hip contusions during the first half of Monday's 111-101 loss at Golden State.

Lamb managed to remain in the game and score 22 points, though the Hornets have listed the sixth man doubtful for the second test of this four-game trip.

''We are short-handed but we've got guys that are capable of playing big games as well," guard Kemba Walker said. "We do have to get better. We're in a tough stretch. We just have to be better.''

A matchup with Phoenix (12-25), mired in its longest winless stretch since losing 10 straight from March 20-April 8, 2013, may help matters.

The Suns have been particularly bad in their two most recent outings. After yielding their most points in a non-overtime game since December 1990 in Saturday's 142-119 drubbing by Sacramento, they set a franchise record low with 22 first-half points in Monday's 97-77 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers that concluded a four-game trip.

''It's tough,'' coach Jeff Hornacek said. ''Sometimes you try so hard you make it worse.''

With leading scorer Eric Bledsoe having missed six straight after undergoing season-ending knee surgery Dec. 29, Phoenix has averaged 95.8 points during the skid. The Suns are 0-15 when recording 100 or less.

"Guys are trying,'' Hornacek said. ''They just don't have enough, especially with Eric out. Even with Eric in there, we have to be playing full bore all the time to win a game. So without him, it's even more where we have to get out there and really play our best.''

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford can relate with his team becoming increasingly dependent on Walker due to its injury woes. The dynamic guard is averaging 27.8 points on 22.0 shot attempts over the last five.

Phoenix shot 52.4 percent and had six players reach double figures in a 111-106 win at Charlotte when the teams last met on Dec. 17, 2014, though that Suns team barely resembles the current one. Of their top five scorers that night, three (Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic, Gerald Green) are no longer with the organization and two (Bledsoe, Markieff Morris) are either injured or out of the rotation.

Brandon Knight has totaled 48 points in the last two after recording 25 against the Lakers, while T.J. Warren averaged 20.5 over a four-game run before going scoreless on Monday.

The Hornets, 4-10 on the road and losers of five straight, stopped a three-game skid in Phoenix with a 103-95 win last season. They've dropped six of seven overall in the series.


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