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Preview: Hornets wrap up road trip in Denver

The road trip mercifully comes to an end.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (16-17) at Denver Nuggets (15-15)

When: 9:00 pm EST

Where: Ball Arena; Denver CO

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Hornets’ extended road trip comes to an end after tonight and along with it ends arguably the most difficult schedule in the NBA to this point. Fittingly, it ends in one of the hardest places to play from an environmental standpoint. The Hornets have at least a little good fortune in that they most recently played in Salt Lake City, which is sneaky elevated, and have had several days in Denver to adjust to the mile high air.

Their opponent is a Nuggets team that is on the second night of a back to back. Last night, they played in Oklahoma City and were dealt the largest loss by a Thunder opponent this season. That could be good or bad depending on you want to look at it.

The Nuggets are predictably led by Nikola Jokic, who leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. While the team as a whole has been mediocre, Jokic is playing at a historic level and is on pace to break his own record of highest PER in a single season. He was quiet against the Thunder last night, so the Nuggets will surely try to get him going early and often tonight. The Hornets have struggled with burly centers all season, so that almost certainly spells bad news for the visiting team.

No one else on the Nuggets has really stood out. Second banana Jamal Murray is still out as he recovers from a torn ACL. Michael Porter Jr. is out with a back issue, but he was tremendously disappointing in the first nine games of the season before the injury. That leaves Aaron Gordon and Will Barton as the key supporting pieces around Jokic. Barton has been good relative to expectations. Aaron Gordon, maybe not so much. He’s been a good glue guy, but the Nuggets probably need a little more from him if they’re going to flourish without their other stars.

The Hornets will be at nearly full strength tonight. Only Cody Martin remains out due to health and safety protocols.