|Hornets host struggling Grizzlies|
Losing teams enduring the second night of a late-season back-to-back square off Thursday night when the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Charlotte Hornets in Charlotte, N.C.
The teams got split decisions on the front end of the back-to-back, with the Hornets using a late three-point play by Kemba Walker to rally for a 111-105 win at Brooklyn, while the Grizzlies were thumped 119-105 at Philadelphia.
The clubs haven't seen each other since October, when the Hornets won 104-99 in Memphis behind Walker's 27 points.
The game was so long ago, star point guard Mike Conley played for the Grizzlies. He has missed the last 58 games with a bone protrusion in his left heel.
Memphis finds itself searching positives at a time in which it's lost 21 of its last 22 games.
A shot at the first pick in the next draft is one of them. The Grizzlies (19-52) are battling Phoenix (19-53) for the worst record in the league.
Also, with Conley out, more focus has gone on the Memphis frontcourt, which lost longtime standout Zach Randolph to free agency last summer. Current starters Jarell Martin and JaMychal Green have shown signs of a bright future in recent weeks.
Martin had only eight points and five rebounds in the loss to the 76ers, but he'd been on a nice roll before that. A recent stretch of seven straight games scoring in double figures included his first double-double of the season (19 points, 11 rebounds) at Orlando.
He also had a career-best 13 rebounds Saturday against Denver.
"You look at the way that Jarell has been playing, and he's been consistently doing things that we need him to do to help this ballclub and to help make him a NBA rotational player," Grizzlies interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff noted. "(He's) a guy who can fit in and help a team win when it matters."
Green had a season-high-tying 16 rebounds Monday against Brooklyn. He followed that up with 14 points and seven rebounds against the 76ers.
He's recorded nine double-doubles in his last 14 games.
The Hornets (31-41) have seen similar promise from young big man Willy Hernangomez, who they acquired from the New York Knicks for Johnny O'Bryant at the trade deadline.
Hernangomez got 13 or more minutes for the fourth time since the trade when called upon for 14 minutes off the bench in Wednesday's win over the Nets. He used those minutes to contribute five points and seven rebounds to Charlotte's third win in its last 11 games.
Hernangomez has averaged a useful 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds when getting 13 or more minutes for his new team.
Hornets coach Steve Clifford found himself justifying why Hernangomez hasn't played more with Charlotte (31-41) having fallen out of playoff contention.
"With younger players, you don't just throw guys in there just to watch them. It's not fair for them, and it's not fair for other guys on the floor," he explained. "The team has to be organized, and we're not as organized with him (because of his newness)."
Charlotte's win Wednesday allowed it temporarily to avoid a 42nd loss, which would assure the club's second consecutive losing season.
The Hornets are 4-8 on the second night of a back-to-back; the Grizzlies have won only three times on 14 such occasions.