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Charlotte Hornets vs. Atlanta Hawks preview

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The Hornets got a much-needed win against the Miami Heat on Wednesday evening. Can they keep up the momentum tonight at home versus the Atlanta Hawks?

Streeter Lecka

Game Time: 7 p.m.

Where: Time Warner Cable Arena - Charlotte, NC

TV: Fox SportSouth & NBA League Pass

Things looked downright dire at moments last week for the Charlotte Hornets. They had lost three straight games, couldn't hit a [wide-open] shot, didn't have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist available, and had to listen to many Lance-Stephenson isn't a good fit in Charlotte rumors. But oh how winning changes everything.

On Wednesday, the Hornets got a much-needed victory over the Miami Heat, and got some unexpected bonuses along the way. First, Cody Zeller looked like the guy Charlotte hoped he would become when they drafted him. In 18 minutes, Zeller had 13 points, eight rebounds, and played outstanding defense on All-Star forward Chris Bosh. The second bonus was the solid play of rookie P.J. Hairston. Head coach, Steve Clifford needed an immediate dose of shooting and gave the rookie a shot at extended minutes on Wednesday. Although he didn't shoot it that well, going 2 for 9, the Heat defense respected his shot.

If that continues to happen, the Hornets offense might have a chance to be good this season after all. Opponents were playing several feet off the perimeter when guarding Stephenson, and Gerald Henderson this season. Just having a perimeter threat opens up so many more lanes to the basket, and gives Al Jefferson room to operate in the post. It was no coincidence that Jefferson’s best game of the season came with Hairston and shooter Gary Neal playing alongside him more.

The Hornets will need another good offensive performance to keep up with the Atlanta Hawks tonight. The Hawks come into the game as the sixth-best shooting team in the league. They love to the move the ball, leading the NBA in assist percentage so far. A crazy-high 69.0% of their baskets have been assisted on the year, which is over 20 percentage points higher than the last-place Cleveland Cavaliers. The Hawks are good perimeter shooters at all five positions, and will be sharing the ball all night.

Some good news going into tonight, the Hornets best perimeter defender, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, is probable to be back in the lineup tonight. However, this could make things interesting, since Clifford seemingly found some good lineups with Hairston and Neal on Wednesday against the Heat. There are only so many minutes to go around, it's possible as MKG is getting his minutes back, Hairston and/or Henderson's minutes drop.

The Hawks are a very different team than they were last year, especially due to the return of Al Horford, one of the best men in the game. Paul Millsap gives many teams problems with his ability to stretch out to the perimeter as a power forward, but Marvin Williams has the same role for Charlotte, so perhaps Williams will be able to handle him better.

Kemba Walker will have his hands full with Jeff Teague. Having his typical hot start, Teague is playing like one of the best PG's in the East right now. Kyle Korver might be the best 3-point shooter in the world not named Stephen Curry, so that will be an area the Hornets will need to focus on. The Hornets will probably throw a mixture of Stephenson’s toughness and Kidd-Gilchrist’s length to bother Korver.

We’re in for a solid Eastern Conference matchup between two teams who have aspirations of a top-four playoff seed. Can the Hornets’ keep up their momentum from Wednesday or will the Hawks steal one on the road?