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Preview: It’s Hornets vs. Celtics Round 2 in an early afternoon tilt

Boston beat Charlotte just two days ago. Let’s run it back!

NBA: Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

What: Charlotte Hornets (11-33) versus Boston Celtics (32-12)

When: 1:00 pm EST

Where: Spectrum Center; Charlotte, NC

How to watch: Bally Sports Southeast, NBATV

The Charlotte Hornets are running it back against the Boston Celtics after the two teams just squared off on Saturday. Two days ago the Celtics won 122-106 after outscoring the Hornets 60-40 in the second half. A Boston win wasn’t all that unexpected since the Celtics have the best record in the NBA while the Hornets sport the league’s second-worst record.

In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day the NBA has scheduled eight games that tip off before the normal 7:00 PM Eastern time, and the Hornets-Celtics 1:00 PM game is the first one on the docket. It’s always a treat to get some afternoon basketball.

Boston Celtics overview

The Celtics are just good at basketball, plain and simple. They have the NBA’s best record and have won 10 of their last 12 games. They’re rollin’.

Boston’s starting five has no real weak spots. Point guard Marcus Smart, last year’s NBA Defensive Player of the Year, has always been a tenacious defender, but this year he has grown as a facilitator and is averaging a career-high 7.4 assists per game. Guard Derrick White is a solid, well-rounded player. Forwards Jaylen Brown (27.2 PPG) and Jason Tatum (30.6 PPG) continue playing at All-Star levels, but Brown has already been ruled out of tonight’s game with a groin injury. Veteran center Al Horford is the ultimate glue guy whose impact transcends his moderate statistics.

Boston’s second unit has the luxury of bringing guard Malcolm Brogdon off the bench, a player who could start on most other rosters. He’s third on the team in scoring at 14.1 points per game. Fourth-year power forward Grant Williams is averaging career highs with 8.9 points and 4.7 rebounds. Center Robert Williams III only plays 21 minutes per game but is second on the team with 7.8 rebounds per game and leads the Celtics with 1.3 blocks.

How the Hornets can win

In an odd statistical quirk, the Celtics lead the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage, but they somehow only rank 26th in offensive rebound percentage. Boston has few vulnerabilities, but one weakness the Hornets can exploit is keeping them off the offensive boards and limiting them to one shot. The Celtics rank second in the league in offensive rating so they score at an elite clip. Charlotte needs to crash the defensive boards in this one and keep the ball out of the hands of Jayson Tatum. With Jaylen Brown sitting this one out, the Hornets should be able to dial up more pressure on Tatum.

The Hornets season has already gone off the rails and back-to-back games against the Celtics isn’t the cure for what ails them. It’s going to take a minor basketball miracle for Charlotte to pull off a win this afternoon.