2. The Charlotte Hornets must avoid West Coast woes (12/26-1/2)
The Charlotte Hornets will once again be forced to embark on the dreaded West Coast road trip this season. Being on the opposite side of the country for an extended period of time renders perfect conditions for a cascade of losses, especially when every team on the schedule is a shoo-in for the playoffs.
Likely underdogs in all five games, the Hornets will visit the Clippers (12/26), Lakers (12/28), Suns (12/29), Nuggets (1/1), and Kings (1/2) over the span of one week. This portion of the schedule hasn’t been kind to Charlotte in recent years. They finished 2-4 on their West Coast trip last season and 0-4 the year prior. The good news is the Hornets will have two full days of rest, including Christmas, to recharge before this grueling stretch of games.
Discipline will be critical for Charlotte to avoid plummeting down the standings. One overtime loss or poor shooting night can’t carry over into the next game. Expectations will be low against these juggernauts, but coming out of this trip with two or three wins would be a success.
The cream usually rises to the top in late December and early January. By this point, the playoff picture is shifting into focus, and teams at the bottom start looking ahead to the upcoming draft. The Hornets must steal a couple of wins during this extended road trip to avoid the West Coast woes and remain in the playoff hunt.