Charlotte Bobcats at Atlanta Hawks game preview

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

The Bobcats follow a close loss to the Thunder with a back-to-back against the Atlanta Hawks. Without Al Horford due to a torn pectoral muscle, the Atlanta squad is not at full health, and the Bobcats will look to take advantage of their opponents' short-handedness.

The Bobcats head into Atlanta tonight to take on the Hawks, who are missing their star player, with Al Horford out indefinitely due to a torn pectoral muscle.

The Hawks are a good shooting team, and Horford is their second-most efficient player (behind Kyle Korver), so the offensive production will likely lag a bit as his replacement steps into the rotation. Atlanta does struggle with offensive rebounding, another area where Horford helps quite a bit, so it's possible that Steve Clifford orders the Charlotte defense to lock up more on shooters instead of collapsing to crash the boards. Perhaps closing down on Korver, Paul Millsap, and Cartier Martin could help quell the Hawks' perimeter shooting, but we'll have to see what defensive adjustments Clifford makes.

The Hawks are enjoying a nice stretch at the moment, winning four of their last five, with the lone loss coming in Miami in overtime. Though they have only played two games in the past week, they've both been on the road and have accrued a total of three overtimes during that span. Fatigue may or may not play a factor in tonight's game for both teams, as the Bobcats follow a hard-fought loss at home against the Thunder last night.

The Bobcats are on a decent streak of their own, winning four of their last six, though the schedule hasn't been particularly strenuous during that stretch. Giving up 100 points to the Raptors, Pistons, and Bucks was a bit of a surprise given the Bobcats' great defensive success this season, but they did hold a Westbrook-less Oklahoma City squad to under 90 points, which is more along the lines of how they've typically been performing.

The claim to second-best in the Southeast Division is at stake tonight. Well, kind of; the Bobcats would still be a couple games behind Atlanta in the standings even if they got the win. But humor me, and enjoy what should be a close game between two division rivals fighting for a playoff spot early in the season.

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