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Preview: Shorthanded Hornets take on possibly shorthanded Hawks

The Hornets will be without four key rotation pieces as they visit a Hawks team that is also dealing with player absences.

Charlotte Hornets v Atlanta Hawks Photo by Adam Hagy/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (13-11) at Atlanta Hawks (12-11)

When: 6:00 pm EST

Where: State Farm Arena; Atlanta, GA

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Hornets were already dealing with a tough stretch of scheduling, and that’s been made even more difficult by a slew of player absences due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Hornets will be without LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Mason Plumlee, and Jalen McDaniels tonight (and likely the next several games after). That means we probably get starting point guard Ish Smith and lots of small ball with PJ Washington and even Miles Bridges manning the five for extended stretches.

That doesn’t bode well for a Hornets team that struggled to contain Clint Capela in the first meeting between these two teams. The Hawks starting center made 10 of his 11 shot attempts and finished the contest with 20 points and 15 rebounds (six offensive). The Hornets had Mason Plumlee that game. Even though he’s had a somewhat underwhelming season, the Hornets defense has been substantially better with Plumlee on the floor. They’ll have to figure out to contain Capela and John Collins without his interior presnce.

On top of the defensive struggles, the Hornets are going to have to figure out how to generate some offense without LaMelo Ball’s wizardry and Terry Rozier’s scoring prowess. Miles Bridges and Gordon Hayward will be the focal points of the offense while Kelly Oubre and PJ Washington need to take on heavy complementary roles. We’ve seen Bridges thrive in that role before, and this would be a great time for him to recapture his early season form.

We might even get a peek at rookies James Bouknight and Kai Jones tonight. Neither has logged a meaningful minute yet, but this might be the opportunity they needed to get a foot through the door into the regular rotation.

The Hornets might catch a break on the injury front. Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, and Cam Reddish are all currently listed as questionable with various ailments. They join De’Andre Hunter and Bogdan Bogdanovic on the injury report, who are both currently out with longer term injuries. There is no official word on the respective statuses of the questionable players at the time of this writing, but the Hawks have called up forward Jalen Johnson and guard Sharife Cooper from their G League affiliate to join the active roster, which suggests they aren’t confident any of the aforementioned trio will suit up.

It’s possible we have a preseason type game tonight with all of the player absences. The Hornets have drawn the short straw on several match-ups this season. They may finally catch a little bit of a break, even if all does is levels the playing field just a bit.