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Hornets take on Kings tonight in third game of road trip

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Charlotte looks to go 2-1 on the current road trip as they face off against the struggling Kings.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Sacramento Kings Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (13-23) vs. Sacramento Kings (12-24)

Where: Golden 1 Center; Sacramento, CA

When: 10 p.m. EST

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Charlotte Hornets tip off late again, this time against the Sacramento Kings, a team struggling more than the Hornets.

The Kings are having a disappointing season of their own, at least depending on who you ask. They signed a number of veterans this summer to pair with a young core of rising players. On one hand, the moves were seen as a way to create a balance that could lead a surprising playoff run in a loaded Western Conference. On the other, there were fears it would mean sacrificing youth development. So far, the Kings are managing to both balance the minutes distribution while not win a lot of games. (win-win?) 12 players average at least 16 minutes per game, and none average more than 27. So far, 14 different players have started.

Now this isn’t a recipe for success, and some veterans like George Hill are reportedly unhappy. Hill and the other veterans brought in this summer were told they would be competing for a playoff spot, but that promise was made by Scott Perry, who left the team soon after to become general manager of the Knicks. The team appears to have opted to go another direction, and that isn’t sitting well.

The new direction is reflective on the court. They are dead last in points per game, and near the bottom in assists and rebounds per game as well. It’s their defense, ranked 14th in points allowed, that shows promising signs.

So who among this group should the Hornets focus on? Believe it or not, it’s 36-year-old Zach Randolph, who leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game and leads the team in rebounding as well with 6.8. From there, four other players — Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein, Bogdan Bogdanovic, and Hill — average double figures in scoring. Also keep an eye on rookie De’Aaron Fox, if he plays. The former teammate of Malik Monk leads the team in assists, but has missed the past six games, but is listed as questionable and could play tonight. However, they will definitely be without Frank Mason III.

All things considered, Charlotte should be the better team, but it is important they play like they did in four quarters against the Warriors and in the first two against the Clippers. In those stretches we saw patience on offense, good ball movement, and high percentage looks. Defensively, the team was dialed in, and overall they played with a sense of urgency. But that all but evaporated in the second half against Los Angeles, and as a result, they gave away a 10 point halftime lead.

I want to believe last Friday’s win over the Warriors wasn’t a fluke, but Charlotte is going to have to win tonight and on Friday against the Lakers to prove otherwise. Both opponents are struggling more than the Hornets, and are less concerned about winning.

It’s a late tip-off, so consider some caffeine to keep you awake. Or, if you have the means, record it and watch the next day. Either way, let’s hope they give us a game worth watching.