PREVIEW: Rockets at Hornets- April 7

Apr 4, 2023; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford watches his team against the Toronto Raptors during the second half at Spectrum Center. Mandatory Credit: Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Rockets at Hornets- April 7

The Rockets will play their penultimate game of the 2022-23 season when they visit the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night. The Rockets went 2-1 on their final homestand of the season, which included an impressive 21-point win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, thanks to a 38-18 fourth quarter.

Eye on the Hornets

Record: 26-54 (14th in Eastern Conference)

Offensive rating (rank): 108.5 (30th)

Defensive rating (rank): 115.0 (20th)

It has been a lousy year for a Hornets team that qualified for the play-in tournament each of the last two seasons. They fired James Borrego after losing to the Hawks in last year’s play-in tournament and hired Kenny Atkinson as his replacement, only Atkinson backed out at the last minute, so Charlotte settled on Steve Clifford, far from an exciting choice. Then Miles Bridges, who was a restricted free agent, was charged with two counts of felony domestic violence. To make matters worse, LaMelo Ball suffered an ankle injury before the season started. Ball, Bridges, and Gordon Hayward were three of the Hornets’ top four scorers, and they have combined to play 86 games this season, with Bridges missing the entire season. The Hornets will not play anyone averaging more than 10 points per game this season.

Matchup to watch: Stephen Silas vs. Steve Clifford

Clifford is in the first year of his second stint as the Hornets’ head coach, and Silas was his top assistant the first time around. The two worked together for five seasons, leading the Hornets/Bobcats to two of their three playoff appearances since rejoining the league in 2004. They are very close friends, and Clifford has said he doesn’t like coaching against Silas because of their close relationship.

What I’m watching for

Friday’s game is a homecoming for Silas, and it will be the first time he’ll coach in Charlotte since his father, Paul, passed away in December. The elder Silas was the Hornets’ head coach for four seasons before the team moved to New Orleans, and he returned to the bench, with Stephen as his assistant from 2010-2012. Paul remained a constant presence around the Hornets after his coaching days ended, which included having season tickets behind the bench. Stephen’s mother, Carolyn, will be at Friday’s game in what should be an emotional night for the entire Silas family.

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