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Charlotte Hornets vs Miami Heat preview

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The Heat aren't the big scary team in the division anymore, and that gives the Hornets a chance.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (17-25) vs Miami Heat (18-23)

When: 7:00 PM EST

Where: Time Warner Cable Arena

TV: Fox Sports South, Sunshine Network

It's funny how a month ago this would have been a horrible game filled with hopelessness and missed potential. Instead, the Hornets have returned to being one of the best defensive teams, and the Heat have sort of pulled things together.

Ever since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist returned, the Hornets have returned to being a great defensive team. Since December 10th (the night of MKG's return) Charlotte is ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating. This explains why the Hornets have been able to win games, despite the absence of Kemba Walker and/or Al Jefferson for multiple games this season.

Also on a rebound to a rough start have been the Miami Heat. Miami was predicted to be one of those teams in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoffs battling for home court advantage in the first round. Instead, they've struggled to remain at .500, and are 7th in the East.

The Heat aren't in perfect shape right now, but things were even worse before the new year. Miami ended 2014 with losses to Philadelphia, Indiana, and Orlando -- not exactly a strong finish to the end the year to say the least. So what changed between now, and the end of the 2014? HASSANITY! Hassan Whiteside appeared out of nowhere and is currently on a revenge tour around the NBA. Whiteside struck out in the NBA his first go around, but he's back in the NBA and majorly contributing to a struggling Heat team.

While Miami currently has a better record, this feels like a game that the Hornets should be favored in. They're at home, playing some great defense as of late, and even though Miami is turning things around they still aren't playing as well as Charlotte right now.