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Preview: New-look Hornets travel north to face Celtics on ESPN

The Hornets get their first and last night in the national spotlight of the 2022-23 season.

Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

What: Charlotte Hornets (15-41) at Boston Celtics (39-16)

When: 7:30 PM EST

Where: TD Garden; Boston, Mass.

How to watch: ESPN

Outfitting: Hornets — Association (white); Celtics — Statement (black)

Injury report

BOS: Jaylen Brown (facial fracture), OUT; Danilo Gallinari (ACL surgery), OUT; Al Horford (knee), PROBABLE; Marcus Smart (ankle sprain), OUT; Jayson Tatum (illness), QUESTIONABLE; Robert Williams III (ankle sprain), PROBABLE.

CHA: Cody Martin (knee soreness), OUT; Kelly Oubre Jr. (hand surgery), OUT.

One day after a trade deadline that saw 16 trades go through before the 3:00 PM EST cutoff, the somewhat-new-look Charlotte Hornets are in Beantown to take on a hobbled Boston Celtics squad, broadcast live by the worldwide leader of sports.

This is the fourth and final meeting of the season with Boston. The Hornets are at risk of being swept in the season series; the Celtics won by 35 points in November, 16 on Jan. 14 and 12 on Jan. 16. Jalen McDaniels scored a career-high 26 points in the most recent contest, but obviously that means nothing for tonight now.

Apart from NBA TV appearances, which are technically accessible nationwide but only to those with a paid subscription, tonight will be the only time this season the Hornets appear on national television. They were originally scheduled to face Chicago on TNT twice, but both games were flexed out due to Lonzo Ball’s absence and Charlotte’s deflating season.

The Celtics have been the best team in the NBA pretty much wire-to-wire at this point, but a few key pieces to their success will be sidelined tonight. Jaylen Brown will miss time with a broken face after being elbowed incidentally on a rebound by Jayson Tatum. Marcus Smart has been out since Jan. 21 with an ankle sprain and Robert Williams III has missed one game with his own ankle sprain, but is probable tonight.

Tatum popped up on Boston’s injury report with an illness yesterday, and Al Horford seems likely to play after missing the Celtics’ most recent contest. If Tatum, Brown, Smart, Horford and Williams all sit, Boston interim head coach Joe Mazzulla will be working with a skeleton crew.

Boston acquired Mike Muscala from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for Justin Jackson, the least favorable of their three second-rounders in 2023 (likely the last pick of the draft), and a 2029 second-round pick yesterday morning. Muscala offers a pick-and-pop, floor-spacing threat that the Celtics didn’t have prior to his arrival.

With Reggie Jackson headed to the buyout market and leaving Svi Mykhailiuk as the lone deadline addition to the Hornets, head coach Steve Clifford has 11-13 players at his disposal tonight depending on G League assignments and Mykhailiuk’s availability. How much the rotation changes will probably take a few games to sort out, but it will be interesting to see who starts at center between Mark Williams or Nick Richards. All signs point to Williams, and surely most fans want to see the young big man be unleashed.

Which players soak up McDaniels’ vacant minutes is a less-obvious question to answer. James Bouknight could be the beneficiary after a long stretch of DNP-CDs, especially since Théo Maledon and Bryce McGowens are limited to 50 games played while on a Two-Way contract. Perhaps one of the Two-Ways is converted to a standard NBA deal for the rest of the season with the newly-open roster spot, and maybe even both if the front office cuts Mykhailiuk loose.

The McDaniels and Plumlee-less Hornets take the floor for the first time tonight, and on ESPN no less. Time to go out there and win over the hearts of America.