As the Los Angeles Clippers try to regain a foothold at home, the Charlotte Hornets get the rare opportunity for consecutive road victories when the teams square off Tuesday on the West Coast.
The Clippers are coming off a sound 106-96 home victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday, as Los Angeles shook off a sluggish start and won going away.
The victory ended a two-game losing streak at Staples Center, a stumble to end 2018 against the San Antonio Spurs and another to start the new year against the Philadelphia 76ers. The Clippers (23-16) had just four home defeats heading into those games.
But when it seemed like time to panic after the Clippers scored just 18 points in the opening quarter Sunday against the Magic, while leading-scorer Tobias Harris went 0-of-6 from the field, a collective calm took over instead.
Harris said afterward that he looked for other ways to help, and suddenly the scoring opportunities came to him as he finished with a game-high 28 points.
Reserve guard Lou Williams, who has carried the scoring load in the fourth quarter all season, knows all about waiting for his time. That was no different against the Magic as he finished with 17 points.
"When you (are a scorer) you can't allow that to bother you and I think that showed," Williams said after Sunday's game.
Things were not going so well for the Hornets against a struggling Suns team, but just as the Clippers did, Charlotte (19-20) waited out the doldrums en route to a 119-113 win.
Kemba Walker stepped up when it was needed, scoring 18 points in the final 4:25. He poured in his team's final 14 points, including a heave from beyond half court at the buzzer that accounted for the game's final margin.
"In these kind of situations, my teammates look to me to make big plays and that is what I try to do," Walker said after Sunday's game. "I try to make the right plays. (It) was me getting to the basket and finishing. My guys, coaches, they count on me big time in situations like this."
The Hornets have won just five times on the road all season and have not won consecutive games away from home since the second and third games of the season.
If given the chance, Walker and the Hornets might not want to wait as long to put away a Clippers team that can score with anybody. Heading into Monday's games, the Clippers were fourth in the NBA with 115.7 points per game. Charlotte was eighth with 113.0 points.
Tuesday's game could come down to what clutch player shines brightest. The Hornets' Walker is as good as anybody in the fourth quarter at 8.6 points per game. The Clippers' Williams led the NBA in total fourth-quarter points last season and has averaged 7.4 this season.
While Hornets center Cody Zeller is out until next month following hand surgery, guard-forward Jeremy Lamb is day-to-day following a hamstring injury on Dec. 31.
The Clippers remain hopeful that forward Luc Mbah a Moute can return soon. He has been out since October with a knee injury. Guard Milos Teodosic has been inactive the past two games with knee tendonitis.
Updated January 7, 2019