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Young scoring stars face off as Hornets meet Warriors

Dec 26, 2022; Portland, Oregon, USA; Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball (1) shoots the ball over Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard (0, left) during the second half at Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Two of the NBA’s highest-scoring young point guards go head to head Tuesday night when LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets visit Jordan Poole and the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco.

Ball, 21, averages 23.7 points per game, while Poole, 23, puts up 19.4 per contest.

Ball is coming off a 27-point performance in the Hornets’ 124-113 road loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night. That brought his average up to 25.6 points in the seven games since his return from an 11-game absence caused by a sprained left ankle that occurred when he stepped on a fan’s foot.

The Hornets have gone just 2-5 in those seven games, but the two wins came in their past four outings, when they prevailed 125-119 at Sacramento on Dec. 19 and 134-130 against the host Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

The stop in San Francisco wraps up a six-game trip.

With Ball and Terry Rozier back from injuries, Hornets coach Steve Clifford was able to start his preferred lineup of Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, Mason Plumlee, Ball and Rozier in the Lakers game.

It also marked the first time this season that the group finished a game. That occurred for a second time Monday in Portland.

Hayward admitted it’s going to take time for the unit to jell.

“We’ve got a lot of weapons, man,” he said. “A lot of guys that can score and that can really go, too. Not just double digits. We have a lot of guys that can go for 30 or 40. We’ve got to figure out how to still share the basketball and get everyone good looks.”

The Warriors have figured that out, especially in their home games. They share the best home record in the league at 13-2 with the Memphis Grizzlies. The Warriors average a league-best 29.4 assists per game, and the number rises to 30.7 in San Francisco.

Golden State logged 31 assists in a 123-109 home win over the Grizzlies on Christmas. Poole went for 32 points, while Draymond Green ran the offensive show in Stephen Curry’s absence, dishing out 13 assists in addition to grabbing 13 rebounds.

Curry has missed the past five games, during which Poole has averaged 28.6 points.

Curry is expected to be out at least another two weeks because of a slightly dislocated left shoulder. In addition, Andrew Wiggins (strained adductor) will miss his 11th consecutive game on Tuesday.

With the Christmas contest having started an eight-game Warriors homestand and Wiggins expected back at some point this week, Golden State coach Steve Kerr challenged his club to find some consistency before Curry returns.

“We have seven straight home games coming up,” he said. “We’ve been great at home, but we haven’t really built a lot of momentum this year. It’s kind of been stops and starts. It feels like it’s time to turn it up. We got to build on this.”

The clubs met in Charlotte on Oct. 29, with Washington’s 31 points helping propel the Hornets to a 120-113 overtime victory.

–Field Level Media