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Preview: Hornets face toughest test yet against a healthy and dominant Brooklyn Nets squad

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Kyrie Irving plus Kevin Durant equals a challenge for the Hornets

Golden State Warriors v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (0-2) vs. Brooklyn Nets (2-0)

When: 7:00 pm EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Fox Sports South(east), NBA League Pass

The Brooklyn Nets come to Charlotte as one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. This game represents the Hornets first matchup against a contender and it couldn’t come at a worse time after dropping their opening game to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers then falling frustratingly short in their second game against a rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder team.

The Nets beat the Golden State Warriors by 26 points in their season opener then drubbed the Boston Celtics in an impressive 28 point smackdown. This one’s going to be tough, y’all.

Brooklyn Nets overview

Brooklyn is fueled by two transcendent but enigmatic stars in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant missed all of last season recovering from injury but has quickly regained his form this year, averaging 25.5 points on 50% shooting in just under 30 minutes per game. Kyrie Irving may be one of the league’s quirkiest personalities but he’s also one of the NBA’s best guards. On the season he’s averaging 31.5 points while shooting a ridiculous 62% from the field.

The Nets have built an effective roster around their dynamic duo. In the back court, Caris LeVert is a versatile though oft-injured player who averaged over 18 points, four rebounds, and four assists per game last season. Joe Harris is one of the league’s best shooters and sports a career average of just over 42 percent from the three-point line. Spencer Dinwiddie might be coming off the bench, but last year he averaged over 20 points and nearly seven assists per game.

Brooklyn patrols the paint with two similar bigs in DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen. Both players are capable of putting up a double-double with a couple of blocks on any given night.

How the Hornets can win

Basketball’s a game of matchups, and the matchups don’t look good for the Hornets. They are going to struggle to guard Kevin Durant, period. Even the NBA’s best wing defenders get lit up by a near seven-footer with one of the prettiest offensive games in NBA history, and the Hornets don’t have any elite wing defenders with enough size to bother Durant. While hope isn’t a strategy, Charlotte needs to hope Durant has an off night as he continues to shake off the post-injury rust.

On the offensive end I’d love to see the Hornets repeatedly get Kyrie Irving in pick-and-roll situations and try to wear him down chasing Devonte’ Graham or Terry Rozier every minute he’s on the floor. Irving isn’t known for his defense and the more he has to work on that side of the ball, the less energy he’ll have to efficiently drop 30-plus points.

This game may also present the Hornets with an opportunity to give Jalen McDaniels some additional minutes to at least somewhat compete with the Jordan/Allen duo on the boards while bringing some outside shooting that can potentially present matchup problems for Brooklyn’s paint-bound centers. A McDaniels pick-and-roll with either Graham or Rozier could present challenges for Brooklyn if the second-year forward can find his stroke.

In the end, the Nets are more talented, more experienced, and deeper than the Hornets. But it’s these types of games, especially at home, that will show us just how far the Hornets have come, and how much further they have to go.