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Preview: The Hornets and Hawks battle for supremacy in the Southeast division

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Can Jalen McDaniels and Miles Bridges keep up their recent stellar play?

Charlotte Hornets v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (27-24) vs Atlanta Hawks (28-25)

When: 1:00 pm EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

It’s a battle between two Southeast division heavyweights as the Hornets face the Hawks. The standings atop the division couldn’t be closer between the division-leading Hornets at 27-24, the second place Hawks at 28-25, and the third place Heat a half game behind at 27-25. Not only does this game have implications about who might win the division (which is ultimately meaningless, but it’s fun to have bragging rights), it may also factor heavily into which of these two teams makes the playoffs.

This will be the third and final meeting between Charlotte and Atlanta this year. The Hornets won both of the previous contests which took place back in January. Gordon Hayward dropped 44 points in the first match-up. In the second contest LaMelo Ball posted a 22-point, 12-rebound, 11-assist triple-double. Can somebody please cue up the song “Yesterday” by the Beatles?

Atlanta Hawks overview

While the Hornets will be without Gordon Hayward, LaMelo Ball, and Malik Monk, they will be facing a Hawks team that is also depleted by injuries.

John Collins is out with a sprained left ankle so Atlanta will need to fill the void of his 18.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, not to mention his ability to stretch the floor as a 38% 3-point shooter from the power forward spot. Starting small forward De’Andre Hunter (16.0 PPG, 5.1 RPG) has only played 20 games this year and recently returned to action, but he’s day-to-day with a knee issue. Reserve guard Tony Snell left Friday’s game and didn’t return as is also day-to-day. Center Clint Capella (15.0 PPG, 14.2 RPG) and power forward Danilo Gallinari (13.2 PPG, 40.2% 3PT) have both missed games this week due to minor injuries, but as of publication it looks like they are on track to play in this one.

The one constant for the Hawks is Trey Young, their sensational point guard. He was an All-Star last year after nearly averaging 30 points per game. While his scoring average has dipped a bit this season to 25.1 points, he’s now longer viewed a “good stats, bad team” kind of player. Atlanta is in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt with Young’s scoring and playmaking (9.5 APG) as the main reason why.

Atlanta traded for veteran bench scorer Lou Williams in late March and he’s been contributing over 13 points per game while shooting over 40% from the 3-point line in his brief time with the Hawks.

How the Hornets can win

Having Jalen McDaniels provide his own Gordon Hayward impersonation is a great place to start. McDaniels has started each of the last two Hornets games (both wins) and played just over 31 minutes in each contest. Over Charlotte’s last two games he has averaged 20 points, six rebounds, and four assists while shooting 16-of-25 (64%) from the field, including 5-of-9 from the 3-point line. Prior to his two-game hot streak he had exceeded 20 minutes just twice this year. Getting above-average production from Jalen McDaniels would be huge. While it’s obviously not ideal having so many injuries, it can only help over the long run for the coaching staff to give Jalen big minutes in big games and see exactly what he’s made of.

The same can be said for Miles Bridges. After a streaky season scoring, he’s on a nice four-game run where he has averaged 18.9 points per game on 25-of-42 (59.5%) shooting. Another high-scoring, highly-efficient game from Miles would go a long way in keeping the Hornets in first place in their division and fourth overall in the East.

Poll

What do you predict for tonight’s game?

This poll is closed

  • 10%
    Hornets win easy
    (10 votes)
  • 51%
    Hornets win a close one
    (47 votes)
  • 27%
    Hawks win a close one
    (25 votes)
  • 9%
    Hawks win easy
    (9 votes)
91 votes total Vote Now