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Charlotte Hornets vs Sacramento Kings Preview

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After getting thoroughly beaten by John Wall and the Wizards, the Charlotte Hornets look for a bounce back win against DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings.

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

When: 7:00 P.M. EST

Where: Charlotte, NC, Time Warner Cable Arena

How to Watch: Fox Sports South and NBA League Pass

Tonight could mark the return of Hornets' point guard Kemba Walker. Even if he is relegated to strict backup point guard duties, which typically means 14 to 16 minutes a game, that could be just the spark the Hornets need to bounce back from a bad loss against the Washington Wizards. In that game, current backup point guard Brian Roberts had a rough time, missing multiple open shots and finishing the night 0-for-10 with just one assist. However, considering Walker's returning from a six week absence, there's no guarantee he comes in and does any better.

Even if the game ends up being all about Walker's return, there are still other important things to consider. First, the Hornets remain in "playoff mode" and have to be looking at tonight's game against the Sacramento Kings (21-41) as a game they have to win. As of today, the Hornets are just one half game up on the Miami Heat for the eighth spot in the Eastern conference playoff race, while the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets both remain within striking distance.A win tonight is important as the Hornets play the Chicago Bulls Friday at home before a five game road trip out West.

In order to get said win, the Hornets will have to do something to slow down the always impressive DeMarcus Cousins. The fifth year center out of Kentucky is averaging perhaps the quietest 23 point, 12 rebound, 3 assist season of recent memory, all at the age of 24. An All-Star for the first time in his career this year, Cousins has gotten some recognition this year, but his accomplishments have been overshadowed by numerous organizational issues (such as Mike Malone's early season firing and the Kings owner wanting to cherry pick as an NBA strategy). Al Jefferson will be assigned the duty of guarding Cousins tonight and will have his hands full. Hopefully the two high scoring centers can cancel each other out to some degree.

For the Hornets, the team needs to find ways to consistently get into the paint, after struggling to do so against the Wizards. With Cody Zeller likely out with a shoulder strain, the high-low passing that had been developing between Zeller and Jefferson is no longer an option. With Marvin Williams likely starting in Zeller's place, that likely means Jason Maxiell as his backup. The Jason Maxiell and Bismack Biyombo frontcourt pairings were not very effective against the Wizards, so it will be interesting to see if coach Steve Clifford tries to mix it up, possibly slotting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist into the small-ball four role in order to add some offense to the second unit.

Up next, the Hornets take on the Chicago Bulls (39-26) in Charlotte.