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Preview: Hornets take on Heat in nationally televised showdown

An elite offense takes on an elite defense.

NBA: Preseason-Charlotte Hornets at Miami Heat Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (4-1) at Miami Heat (3-1)

When: 7:30pm EDT

Where: FTX Arena; Miami, FL

How to watch: ESPN, Bally Sports Southeast

The Hornets get an early season game on national TV, and they’ve set it up well. They’ve been one of the surprise teams of the early season with their 4-1 start that includes a convincing win over the Brooklyn Nets. They’ll take on the Heat, who are 3-1 and have the league’s second best point differential. It’s a true clash of the titans. It’s a rare opportunity for a big network to actually be excited about broadcasting a Hornets game.

It’s about an interesting a matchup as you can have on paper. The Hornets have the league’s second best offensive rating (and best offensive rating among teams that aren’t being outscored by their opponents). The Heat boast the league’s best defensive rating. Something’s gotta give. One, if not both of those is going to be worse after tonight’s game. Both teams are below average on the side of the court they’re not elite at, so I guess that’s a bit of a something’s gotta give situation as well.

The Heat are led by a one-two punch of duos (that’s four players total). They have blended the experience, savvy, and tenacity of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry with the youthful energy and bounciness of Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. Butler and Herro take most of the shots and do most of the scoring. Adebayo anchors their league best defense and is third in the pecking order for shots as a dive man and bruising scorer. Lowry is a quintessential floor general at this point in his career. He’s struggled with his shot to this point, but he’s a vet, that means nothing as a predictor of one game.

That core is surrounded by role players that are junkyard dogs and/or knockdown shooters. Markieff Morris, PJ Tucker, and Dewayne Dedmon would win a fistfight against any role-playing trio in the league. All of them are capable threats from outside as well. Duncan Robinson and Max Strus are snipers that are going to put a lot of pressure on the Hornets defense and force them to be quick and connected on their rotations.

The Hornets will be looking for a bounce back performance from LaMelo Ball, who had a real rough go of it on Wednesday against the Magic. The Hornets will need that along with more strong performances from Miles Bridges and Gordon to keep the offense afloat.

As of this writing, Terry Rozier is listed as questionable for tonight’s contest. He went from doubtful to out for Wednesday’s game, so this is a step in the right direction. PJ Washington is still doubtful as he recovers from a sprained knee.

A win tonight will really put a spotlight on the Hornets. However, we’ve seen this team completely lay an egg on the big stage in most of their recent primetime showings, so it’s easy to be wary.