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Preview: Hornets try to bounce back against undermanned Wizards

The Hornets were bad against the Suns. They get 24 hours to figure it out before taking on the Wizards.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Washington Wizards Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (19-18) at Washington Wizards (18-18)

When: 7:00 pm EST

Where: Capital One Arena; Washington DC

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

The Hornets were apparently hungover from the holiday festivities when they took on the Suns on Sunday. They were run off the floor from the start and never had a shot against Phoenix. They have less than 24 hours to dwell on it before they take the floor with the chance to make amends.

Tonight’s opponent is the Wizards, who like much of the league are dealing with a bit of a covid problem As of this writing, Spencer Dinwiddie, Montrezl Harrell, and Rui Hachimura lead a long list of Wizards currently in the health and safety protocols. They’ve all entered the protocols at different times, so it’s hard to say when they’ll start filtering back into the lineup. I’d be surprised if any made it back tonight.

With all the absences, the Wizards are heavily reliant on Kyle Kuzma to provide ancillary support offensively to Bradley Beal. He’s done well for himself, averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds in the two games since Dinwiddie left the lineup. In those two games, the Wizards blew out a surprisingly competent Cavaliers team and lost on an absurd buzzer beater to the Eastern Conference leading Bulls.

Beal has taken on increased play making responsibility along with his usual high usage scoring. He’s dished out 27 assists in the last two games including a career high 17 on Saturday. He’s scoring or assisting on almost every Wizards basket, so he’s obviously the key piece the Hornets need to limit if they want to win.

The other key for the Hornets, as is the case just about every game, is holding their own on the interior. Daniel Gafford was quiet in the last meeting between these two teams, but he ate the Hornets lunch in the first meeting. Kyle Kuzma has been taking the center minutes when Gafford sits. That doesn’t look terribly formidable on paper, but this Hornets team let third string center Jalen Smith and fresh-off-the-couch Bismack Biyombo combine for 30 points and 18 rebounds last night.

The Hornets will almost be back at full strength. They may get PJ Washington back after he was almost cleared from protocols on Sunday. Otherwise, the Hornets main rotation is healthy.

A win tonight clinches the season series in favor of the Hornets, which could prove to be a big deal at season’s end if these two teams stay neck and neck in the standings. The Hornets then follow this game up with a home game against the Pistons as they try to build momentum heading into back to back games against the Bucks.