Juancho Hernangomez has had his name floated in trade rumors, but the Denver Nuggets reserve has other things on his mind right now.
Namely, his biannual reunion with his older brother, Charlotte Hornets center Willy Hernangomez, who is in town for a matchup Wednesday night at Pepsi Center.
Juancho hasn’t played as much as his brother this season but he is on a team — for now — that is heading for a second straight trip to the playoffs. Willy, on the other hand, is on a team rebuilding for the future and showing the signs of that. The Hornets have lost five in a row, three of which on this four-game road trip that ends in Denver.
But Charlotte is exactly the kind of team capable of beating the Nuggets on their home court. Denver has lost to Cleveland, Atlanta and New Orleans, all teams sitting at least 11 games below .500, and account for most of the Nuggets’ five home losses this year.
The frustrating thing for coaches and players is the erratic performances. Denver has beaten the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks on the road but has a letdown against losing teams. It’s a trend that has bothered coaches and players and one that bit Denver again Saturday night against the Cavaliers.
“It seems like bad teams come in and play freely against us,” center Mason Plumlee said. “We’re expected to win. We need to play like it.”
The Nuggets can’t afford to take the 15-28 Hornets lightly. Forward Paul Millsap will miss his fourth straight game with a left knee contusion and starting guards Gary Harris (right adductor strain) and Jamal Murray (sore back) are questionable.
Denver has recalled rookie PJ Dozier from the G-League and he could be active for Wednesday’s game if Harris and Murray are ruled out.
Not having those two would make it tougher to stop Charlotte’s second-year guard Devonte’ Graham. Graham made eight 3-pointers and had 27 points in Monday’s loss at Portland and is averaging 18.8 points and 7.8 assists per game for the Hornets.
Graham is one of 10 Hornets players age 24 and younger, but despite that youth they have played teams tough at times. They showed it against Portland, scoring 43 points in the third quarter to make it a game in the fourth before falling, 115-112.
“It’s stressful. It hurts and it should hurt,” Hornets coach James Borrego said after the loss to the Trail Blazers. “But this is only going to make us stronger, more resilient. Our guys are showing growth in these moments.”
Borrego tweaked his lineup against Portland, starting Cody Zeller and moving Bismack Biyombo to the bench. Biyombo, who has started 25 of the 40 games he has played, didn’t get off the bench on Monday.
Charlotte might need his size and experience to help contain Denver center Nikola Jokic, who would likely take on more responsibility if Murray and Harris are out. Jokic leads the Nuggets in scoring (19.3 points), rebounding (9.9) and assists (6.4) per game.
Jokic is averaging 24.7 points over the last 10 games while shooting 56.3 from the floor.
–Field Level Media