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Hornets look to get back on track versus the Heat

The Hornets have been giving playoff teams fits as of late.

Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (22-42) vs. Miami Heat (41-23)

When: Wednesday, March 11th, 7:30 pm EST

Where: American Airlines Arena; Miami, FL

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA TV

Following a close loss to the Hawks in Atlanta, the Hornets travel further south to Miami to take on the Heat, winners of five of their last six games.

Miami’s only loss over that six-game stretch was by six points to the Pelicans in New Orleans on Mar. 6. They haven’t played since Sunday against the Washington Wizards, so they’ll be plenty rested, as opposed to the Hornets, who are on the second game of a two-game road trip. Charlotte may have dropped four out of their last five games, but they competed in every one and all were winnable games.

The first time these squads faced off this season was a long time ago. The Heat downed the Hornets 117-100 on Nov. 25 behind 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists from Bam Adebayo. Terry Rozier led the Hornets with 19 points and nine rebounds. Charlotte was down by five at the end of the first quarter, and the deficit steadily grew at the end of each subsequent quarter until they lost. It wasn’t a particularly close or competitive game, and it was the Hornets’ fifth-straight loss.

The Heat have a pretty good offense — their 112.3 OFFRTG ranks seventh in the NBA. They move the ball, have playmakers at every position, and Erik Spoelstra is still one of the best coaches in the league. They lead the league with a 58.8 true shooting percentage and 38.4 3-point percentage. They’re third in AST% at 65.3. Like I said; a pretty good offense.

Everyone knows about how good Jimmy Butler is, or at least I’d hope. But, what really makes Miami’s offense go, are their lesser-known players; first and foremost, Duncan Robinson. A former Division III player at Williams College and graduate of Maude H. Trefethen Elementary School in New Castle, N.H. (40 minutes from my house, shoutout to my neighbor Duncan) where his 6th grade class consisted of four students, Robinson has ridden his deadeye 3-point shooting all the way to NBA relevancy. His 240 made 3-pointers ranks third in the NBA, and his 45.3% from beyond the arc ranks second. Robinson’s eFG% is 67.2%, again ranking him third in the NBA. His true shooting is 68.4 percent. He can make long-distance shots from anywhere on the floor. Pull-ups, off-screen, spot-up, you name it; Robinson will put the ball in the hoop. He recently hit seven-plus threes in three consecutive games;

Matching up with Adebayo is going to be an issue. Cody Zeller is a mobile big that defends pick and rolls reasonably well, but Adebayo is a different animal. He’s a true point-center, and despite Zeller’s mobility and lateral quickness, he’s not on the same level as Bam. It’ll be interesting to see if James Borrego chooses to play Willy Hernangomez or Bismack Biyombo tonight, as both will be equally inept with Adebayo on the floor. He’s much craftier with the ball and better at playmaking than any center in the league not named Nikola Jokic. As we can see below, even smaller and quicker bigs like PJ Washington don’t stand much of a chance. Bam’s handle is so tight for a center;

Miami has four of players listed as a “game time decision” for tonight. We’ll find whether Jimmy Butler (toe), Jae Crowder (concussion), Udonis Haslem (illness) ((it’s so crazy that he hasn’t retired yet)), Tyler Herro (foot), and Kendrick Nunn (illness) are playing close to tip-off. Meyers Leonard (ankle) is out.

The Hornets have nobody on the injury report. Hooray for health!

Tonight’s contest should be a fun one to watch. Miami is a competitive team that needs every win they can get to solidify their playoff seeding. Lately, the Hornets have given every team they play a run for their money. Both squads play a fun brand of basketball. We should see lots of 3-pointers being shot. Lots of switching and frenzied rotations on defense. Hopefully Derrick Jones Jr. and Miles Bridges will host an impromptu dunk contest at halftime.

This may not mean much to a lot of people, but I saw that Miami is a 10.5-point favorite to win the game tonight in terms of betting odds. That seems like a lot of points to be giving up to a Hornets team that’s been playing well lately, even if it often results in a loss. Their last loss by more than 10.5 points was Feb. 25 against Indiana. Some spread. Tonight, we beat the bookmakers.