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Preview: Clippers host Hornets for a Sunday night showdown

Charlotte looks to pick up the first win of their five-game road trip

LA Clippers v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Brandon Todd/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (5-5) at Los Angeles Clippers (4-4)

When: 9:00 pm EDT

Where: Staples Center; Los Angeles, Calif.

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Injury report:

Charlotte: Mason Plumlee: doubtful (left rib contusion), PJ Washington: out (left elbow hyperextension).

LA: Serge Ibaka: out (back), Kawhi Leonard: out (right knee), Marcus Morris Sr.: out (left knee), Jason Preston: out (foot).

Things have not been swell as of late. The Hornets’ best start to a season in franchise history seems like a distant memory, and they still have to get through three more teams before they return to Charlotte. The Clippers have had an up-and-down start themselves, but they excel on the defensive end of the floor while the Hornets have free-fallen to the bottom of the NBA in defensive rating.

LA boasts the NBA’s third-best defense with a rating of 100.2 through eight games. Even without Kawhi Leonard, who should miss the high majority of this season, the Clippers are a strong defensive team that plays hard on that end. Paul George has led the charge with three steals per game, which ranks second in the NBA — George is also the second-leading scorer in the NBA averaging 27.9 points per game, and 3.4 made 3-pointers per game ranks fifth. His nightly 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists are both team-highs. Paul George is good.

Stylistically, the Clippers and Hornets are actually kind of similar. Charlotte (102.38) and LA (101.94) are third and sixth in pace of play, and 26th and 30th in rebounding percentage, respectively. The Clippers score 19 percent of their points off of opponent turnovers, fourth-most, and the Hornets are right behind them at 18.7 percent. Both are top-10 in assist percentage. Apart from LA having the clear upper-hand on the defensive end, there are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn between these squad.

Part of LA’s offensive struggles are due to Leonard’s absence, but Marcus Morris Sr. has only played in two games and Reggie Jackson is just starting to get his legs under him after a rough start to the year. Nic Batum is providing his classic 10-6-2-1 stat line on a highly-efficient 41 percent on 5.6 attempted triples per game. His ability to capably defend bigs and also switch onto wings/guards has buoyed the Clippers’ defense even though they have no true center playing big minutes — Ivica Zubac is still only getting 23.3 minutes with Ibaka sidelined.

Simply put, the Hornets’ defense will need to step it up about 17 notches to have a chance in this game. Giving up 22 threes to Sacramento involved a good bit of luck, but the reality is that a lot of those attempts were open. If Plumlee and Washington are out, head coach James Borrego may be forced to let the Clippers bomb from deep and hope the role-players don’t shoot you out of the building while George does his thing. The offense has played fine throughout this three-game skid — LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and Gordon Hayward specifically — but it unfortunately hasn’t mattered.