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Preview: Hornets welcome Thunder to The Hive to kick off four-game homestand

Back in Buzz City, finally.

Charlotte Hornets v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (9-26) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (15-19)

When: 7:00 PM EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, N.C.

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass

Outfitting: Hornets — Icon (teal); Thunder — Association (white)

Injury report:

CHA: Kelly Oubre Jr. (hand sprain), DOUBTFUL; Cody Martin (knee surgery), OUT; Nick Richards (ankle sprain), QUESTIONABLE; Dennis Smith Jr. (ankle sprain), QUESTIONABLE.

OKC: Ousmane Dieng (wrist), OUT; Chet Holmgren (foot surgery), OUT; Aleksej Pokuševski (leg), OUT; Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (ankle), OUT.

Following a grueling six game road trip, the Charlotte Hornets return to the Spectrum Center to open a four-game homestand against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder have won four of their last five coming into tonight, with the only loss coming at the hands of the Pelicans in overtime. OKC ranks 23rd in offense and ninth in defense on the season, but over this recent stretch, they’re a top-five defense and a top-20 offense with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leading the way and establishing his NBA superstardom. The only player in the league with more 30-point games this season than SGA (21) is Luka Dončić (24), and he’s currently third in scoring at 31.5 points per game while averaging 5.8 assists to boot. He’s the real deal, and a legitimate all-NBA candidate at this point of the season.

SGA hasn’t been without help this season, and as a result the Thunder have a real chance to make the play-in tournament. Lu Dort is as stout a defender as ever, Josh Giddey is the team’s second-leading scorer at 14.6 points per game and his 8.1 rebounds rank third among all guards in the league. Jalen Williams has played like a surefire all-Rookie selection, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is blossoming into a perfect role-player, and Aleksej Pokuševski seemed to be piecing it together before he got hurt. The main weakness throughout the roster is shooting, but the Isaiah Joe reclamation project is already well underway to help alleviate that.

The biggest question mark for the Hornets tonight; how much will Mark Willams play, and what impact will his emergence have on the depth chart? The rookie earned the first meaningful minutes of his NBA career in the back-to-back against Portland and Golden State, and he took the opportunity and ran with it. Williams tallied nine points, six rebounds and two steals versus the Trail Blazers and six points, two boards and two blocks in San Francisco. He shot a combined 6-9 from the field and made 3-4 free throws in the two games, flashing feel for the game on both ends, finishing touch, mobility, and rim protection instincts. If Nick Richards remains out, we should continue to see head coach Steve Clifford unleash Williams.

It’s a positive sign that Oubre is at least doubtful for this game after being suddenly added to the injury report before the Warriors game. Hopefully he’s back soon, and we can see more Charlotte lineups infused with capable veterans and promising young talent.