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Preview: Shorthanded Hornets kick off two-game road swing against sliding Cavaliers

Youngstown native Terry Rozier returns to Ohio.

Charlotte Hornets v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (4-12) at Cleveland Cavaliers (8-6)

When: 7:30 PM EST

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Outfitting: Hornets — Icon (teal); Cavaliers — Icon (wine)

Injury report

CHA: LaMelo Ball (left ankle sprain), OUT; Gordon Hayward (left shoulder contusion), DOUBTFUL; Cody Martin (right knee surgery), OUT; Dennis Smith Jr. (left ankle sprain), DOUBTFUL; Mark Williams (left ankle sprain), OUT.

CLE: Jarrett Allen (illness), QUESTIONABLE; Ricky Rubio (knee), OUT; Dean Wade (knee), QUESTIONABLE; Dylan Windler (ankle), OUT.

Following the loss of LaMelo Ball with 94 seconds remaining in Wednesday’s contest against Indiana, a hobbled Charlotte Hornets squad hits the road to face off with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have somewhat quietly lost five-straight games.

Tonight’s matchup marks the first meeting this season between Charlotte and Cleveland. Jarrett Allen might miss this one with an illness, but the Cavs’ dynamic backcourt is intact. Donovan Mitchell missed last Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, during which Darius Garland dropped a casual 51 points on 16-31 shooting (10-15 3P, 9-13 FT), along with six assists and two steals in a close loss to Minnesota. Both Cleveland guards have been among the league’s best so far this year, with Mitchell ranking sixth in the NBA at 30.3 points per game on a career-high 42.9 percent from deep and Garland ranking seventh with 8 assists per game.

As a team, the Cavs are better than a barely-above-.500 mark would indicate, and that record has obviously been tanked by this five-game skid after they ripped off eight-straight wins of their own following an opening-night loss to Toronto. Apart from Phoenix, the Cavs are the only team that ranks in the top-six in both offensive (fifth, 114.6) and defensive rating (sixth, 109.5). Mitchell and Garland are both All-Stars, and the Mobley-Allen frontcourt is an excellent back line to pair with an explosive but undersized backcourt.

Not only Ball, but also Mark Williams sprained his left ankle the last time he was on the court, albeit for Greensboro. Cody Martin remains out, though Gordon Hayward and Dennis Smith Jr. seem to be trending in the right direction with their injury designations. Needless to say, head coach Steve Clifford has been scraping the bottom of the barrel to build out his rotation so far this season.

With Ball sidelined for what’s likely to be at least a few games and Smith not being fully-ready to return, Terry Rozier will receive starter’s minutes at point guard with Two-Way player Théo Maledon serving as the backup. The Charlotte Observer’s Rod Boone had Maledon on his podcast recently, and they spoke about Ball’s injury and the opportunities he’s gotten since becoming a Hornet. Definitely a pertinent listen as Maledon primes for prominent role on the team coming up.

There’s a decent chance that every healthy member of the Hornets roster enters the game tonight. If Hayward and Smith both were to sit out, the rotation might look like this:

Starters: Rozier-Oubre-McDaniels-Washington-Plumlee

Bench: Maledon-Bouknight-McGowens-Thor-Richards.

Rozier tends to play well in his home state of Ohio. In 2021-22, he put up 42 points and shot 10-16 from downtown in the season-opener and he scored 30-plus twice in 2019-20. Last year, he logged a cool 27/7/7 and made five threes. It could be Scary Hours in Cleveland tonight.