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The Charlotte Hornets’ chase of the playoffs will send them back West quickly after the All-Star break.
The NBA released the schedule for the second half of its 2020-21 season, which starts after an early-March seven-day break. The Hornets play five consecutive road games against the Western Conference in mid-March, including back-to-back games in Los Angeles against the defending champion Lakers and the Clippers.
The Hornets play 37 of 72 regular-season games after the break: 19 at Spectrum Center and 18 on the road. The Hornets could soon start admitting a limited number of fans to home games, after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced some loosening of COVID-19 restrictions for large-capacity arenas.
Cooper announced large arenas could admit up to 15% capacity. Based on a 20,200 capacity for Spectrum Center, that would give the Hornets latitude to have up to about 3,000 fans at remaining home games. Currently, 14 of the 30 NBA teams allow some fans at home games.
Some highlights of the second-half schedule:
A TNT game vs. Brooklyn Nets
Hornets fans often complain about not enough national exposure. Seemingly, national interest in rookie LaMelo Ball has driven notice: The Hornets’ road game April 1 against the Brooklyn Nets will be on TNT.
The Nets are an obvious national draw, with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
Also, the Hornets’ home game against the Boston Celtics on April 25 -- with Kemba Walker returning and ex-Celtics Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier starring for the Hornets -- is on ESPN.
March will be rough on the road
The Hornets have three consecutive home games right after All-Star break, then play six of the remaining eight games in March away from Spectrum Center.
A Denver Nuggets-Lakers series on back-to-back nights might be as tough a two-game patch as an NBA team can face: In high altitude against a talented Nuggets team, then the next night against LeBron James and (if he’s recovered from a leg injury) Anthony Davis.
The annual LeBron visit
Whether playing for Cleveland, Miami or now the Lakers, James packs in fans home and road. The Lakers’ game in Spectrum Center is April 13.
A relatively kind last month
If the Hornets can stay in the playoff hunt until May, the schedule could work in their favor: They play seven of their last 10 games at home, and the only title contender in the last two weeks is the Clippers in Spectrum Center May 13.