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The Hornets’ mini-road trip begins in Atlanta

Charlotte has only faced their division foe-Hawks one time prior to tonight.

Atlanta Hawks v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (22-41) vs. Atlanta Hawks (19-46)

When: Monday, March 9th, 7:30 pm EST

Where: State Farm Arena; Atlanta, GA

How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA TV

In spite of the 1-3 record during their recent four-game home stand, the Charlotte Hornets are back on the road and heading to Atlanta, with plenty of confidence and momentum, to face the Hawks.

The Hornets roll into this contest off of a convincing win over the Houston Rockets, albeit sans Russell Westbrook and Eric Gordon, while the Hawks are reeling from a blowout loss at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies. Atlanta has lost three games in a row, and five of their last seven overall. On the flip side, Charlotte is 7-5 in their last 12 games, a marked improvement from their stretch leading up to the All-Star break. These two teams come into tonight’s game on opposite ends of the spectrum; the Hawks are cold, and the Hornets are riding pretty high considering the circumstances.

The first meeting between the Hawks and Hornets was a day over three months ago on Dec. 8, 2019, with the Hawks taking home a 122-107 victory. Trae Young took a knee to the mouth early in the game, but returned and lit up the Hornets’ defense for 20 points in the second half, 14 of which came in the fourth quarter. He finished with 30 points, nine assists, and six rebounds; a pretty solid game, to say the least. 42-year-old Vince Carter scored a season-high 17 points in that game, too. Miles Bridges and PJ Washington both dropped 20 points. Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier each shot/played poorly.

The Hornets and Hawks will be playing each other often throughout the rest of the season. Being in the same division, the teams are required to meet four times, but tonight is only their second contest. The Hornets also play the Miami Heat three times and the Orlando Magic twice, meaning they have a total of eight division games left on the season. NBA scheduling is weird.

Since the Hawks traded for Clint Capela at the trade deadline, he has yet to appear in a game for them. He’s listed as out with a plantar fascia injury. Jeff Teague (illness), De’Andre Hunter (bruised left knee), and DeAndre’ Bembry (abdomen) are all questionable. Kevin Huerter (sore left groin) and John Collins (bruised right thigh) are probable. Quite a hefty injury report for Atlanta.

The Hornets’ injury report is empty. I say this often, but it’s crazy how lucky they’ve been with injuries this season. Nobody has suffered an injury that kept them out for more than a week or two. I think PJ Washington’s rolled ankle around Christmastime is the most-serious injury. *Aggressively knocks on wood*

The Hawks shoot a lot of threes (eighth in the NBA at 35.9 3PA per game), rebound very poorly (48.2 REB%, 29th), and turn the ball over a lot (15.5 TO%, 28th). Their 114.2 DEFRTG is horrific. They’re ranked 28th in DEFRTG right now, and outside of the Washington Wizards, they’ve been the worst defensive team in the league this season. Young didn’t make an All-Star team for his defense, but oh boy, do they struggle to guard the pick-and-roll with him on the floor. They give up an average of 22.9 points per game to their opponent’s pick-and-roll ball-handler, the sixth-most in the NBA. They’re in the bottom-10 in nearly every pick-and-roll defensive metric. James Borrego is a smart guy. The Hornets will be probably sending even more screens towards Devonte’ and Terry than usual.

The Hornets are bad at all of those aforementioned things and they chuck a lot of threes, just not to the same extent as the Hawks. At least we have that going for us. The game got away from the Hornets in the second half the first time the teams faced off (up by two at halftime, lost by 15), but it’s clear they are somewhat evenly-matched, both talent-wise and stylistically. If Charlotte can take care of the ball and control the defensive glass, limiting extra possessions for Atlanta, they’ll have as good a shot as any to win this game. Make sure Young doesn’t explode for 50 points, and things should go swimmingly.

It would be very Hornets to lose this game convincingly after a wire-to-wire win against the Rockets. But not these Hornets. The Young Hornets do not get flustered and they do not fold. A new era is upon us. Saturday’s game against the Rockets made that readily apparent. Things are looking up!