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Houston Rockets vs. Charlotte Hornets game preview

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets return to the friendly (and probably barren) confines of the Toyota Center tonight to take on the Charlotte Hornets.

At 20-18, the Hornets are tied for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. However, as we’ve mentioned multiple times this season, there is a ton of fluidity over there and if a decently-sized winning streak could shoot someone into the top 4 in the conference. In the “Did you know?” department: the Atlanta Hawks are on a 6-game winning streak. Since all the talk is about them trading or not trading Millsap, people have lost sight of how they’ve been playing.

But let’s talk Charlotte.

The Hornets are in the midst of a 5-game road trip. The Rockets understand how rough that can be, and Charlotte has gotten off to a tough start. They started with a second game of a back-to-back in Detroit, and this happened:

Then Charlotte had to go into San Antonio, where the Spurs have decided that after their poor start at home that they will no longer lose in the Alamo City. The good news for the Hornets is that they get two days off before each of their next three games. That’s likely to play a part against Houston tonight, especially with Houston showing signs of fatigue lately.

Kemba Walker sets the tone for the Hornets on offense, and Kardiac Kemba should make his first All-Star team this season. Jeremy Lamb should be familiar to Rockets fans as one of the key pieces that netted them James Harden. I’m a huge fan of Cody Zeller, and his contributions go well beyond the box score. Besides the usual suspects, Marco Belinelli, Marvin Williams, and Frank Kaminsky will take most of the three point attempts for them.

Charlotte is first in turnover ratio and third in defensive rebound ratio. Charlotte’s defense sits at eighth overall in defensive efficiency.

The Swiss Army Knife for Charlotte is Nicolas Batum, but he’s doubtful with a hyperextended right knee.

For the Rockets, Eric Gordon is day-to-day with a sprained big toe. Splash Gordon really could use a night off for rest, so hopefully the team can give him the night if he’s anything less than 100%.

Tip-off is at 7pm CT.