The Charlotte Hornets get a crack at the new-look Philadelphia 76ers after a pair of narrow defeats against the previous edition when the clubs meet for a third time this season Saturday night in Charlotte, N.C.
The 76ers improved to 2-1 since the acquisition of Jimmy Butler, 1-1 in games in which the four-time All-Star actually played, when the newcomer contributed 28 points on 12-for-15 shooting in a 113-107 win over the Utah Jazz in his Philadelphia home debut on Friday night.
Butler came up big in the win, hitting a game-clinching shot with 19.4 seconds left as the 76ers were scoring the game's final eight points.
On the second night of a back-to-back, the 76ers will be facing a Hornets squad that hasn't played since a 113-89 loss at Cleveland on Tuesday that ended a three-game trip that began with a 133-132 overtime loss at Philadelphia.
Charlotte also lost 105-103 at Philadelphia in October, a defeat similar to the rematch in that Hornets star Kemba Walker needed a high-volume shooting night in order to produce 30-plus points.
Walker has gone for 37 and 30 points, respectively, in the two meetings, shooting a combined 20 for 60.
He was even less efficient -- 2 for 16, seven points -- in the loss at Cleveland on Tuesday.
Walker had been getting a lot of support from Malik Monk, who made 26 of his 50 shots over a recent four-game stretch.
But on the just completed three-game trip on which the Hornets were facing two teams for a second time each, Monk was harassed into 7-for-37 shooting by teams no longer surprised to see his expanded role this season.
Veteran forward Marvin Williams says the onus is now on Monk to adjust to the new looks he's seeing.
"Let's use Philly, for example," he explained. "They might have played him a certain way he had never seen before. Now, if he goes back and looks at that old Philly game, he's going to know. He'll have better ways to get to his spots because he'll better know what they do."
The Hornets hope familiarity helps them deal with 76ers standouts Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Both had double-doubles in each of the first two meetings, including a 42-point, 18-rebound explosion by Embiid in last week's overtime affair.
The Hornets will have to deal with Butler this time around, but there's a positive aspect to that. Robert Covington and Dario Saric, dealt away to Minnesota in the Butler trade, combined for 29 points and 16 rebounds in the first meeting, then 25 points and 12 rebounds in the second.
Butler had only 14 points in his 76ers debut Wednesday at Orlando. He warned after the game that the new mix was going to take some time to gel.
If the late rally that produced Friday's win over Utah is any indication, that process already has begun.
"I'm telling you: It's coming sooner rather than later," Butler said this week. "We will be just fine, because once we put this thing together, we are going to be tough."
The 76ers have won eight straight against the Hornets, including three in a row at Charlotte.