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Nets and Hornets battle for eighth seed

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Home sweet home. The Brooklyn Nets came back to Barclays Center after spending most of February on the road. There, they found themselves matched up against the Golden State Warriors. Brooklyn came away with an upset victory over the Dubs after Jarrett Jack hit a game winner with one second to go. It was the Nets' second straight win and now they find themselves tied for the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference with...

The Charlotte Hornets have been playing really well as of late. They've won four out of their last five games, including Tuesday night's affair with the Los Angeles Lakers. After this, they go home to play Toronto on Friday before traveling to Detroit on Sunday afternoon. The Pistons are only 2.5 games behind the Hornets.

Where to follow the game

YES Network for the TV audience and WFAN 101.9 FM on the radio. Tip off is after 7:30.

Injuries

The Nets are clear in this category other than Mirza Teletovic.

Kemba Walker has been out since late January with a knee injury.

The game

What's happening?

2014-2015 Season

Brooklyn Charlotte

Record

25-33 25-33

Pace

94.5 95.33

Offensive Efficiency

100.8 98

Defensive Efficiency

104.3 100.3

Turnover Rate

14.9 12.3

Assist Rate

16.2 16.2

Offensive Rebounding Rate

23.6 22.3

Rebounding Rate

48.9 50.2

Free Throw Rate

26.6 27.2

Effective Field Goal Percentage

49 45.9

Opponent's Effective Field Goal Percentage

50.1 48.5

The Nets won the first meeting in November.

The Hornets are looking a bit different since that first meeting. They picked up Mo Williams from Minnesota in exchange for Gary Neal and so far, Mo has played well. When Walker gets back, he and Williams will spend a lot of time together in the backcourt. That may not be the wisest decision, but we'll see how it goes once Kemba returns.

The other Williams has been playing extremely well as of late. Deron Williams made four more three pointers on Monday night and has looked great since reentering the starting five. The numbers aren't sexy or anything like that, but the team has looked and played much better when he's been on the court. He's been getting to the rim a bit more in the second half and he should look to do that early and often against Mo.

Assuming he doesn't get dunked on again, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be spending most of the night guarding Joe Johnson. The Nets haven't needed Johnson's scoring much over the past couple of games, but he's still someone they rely on to keep the offense humming. MKG is the best perimeter defender on the Hornets, so look for Jarrett Jack to fill in the void.

Lance Stephenson only played 9:33 last night. There's a chance he can turn things around, but it probably won't be this season.

Player to Watch: Al Jefferson

The big guy is having a bit of a down season, but is still a solid player to have on your roster. He's averaging around 17 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes a game. His field goal percentage is down, and we can pin that directly on his decreased effectiveness at the rim. He dealt with a groin injury before the All Star break and that could have been a source of his struggles. Over at At the Hive, Chris Barnewell makes a key point:

"Charlotte has been battling injuries to key players all season, but no injury was scarier than the one to Al Jefferson. An All NBA center last year, Jefferson was a huge part of the Hornets making last year's playoffs. This season there has been a natural regression, and the Hornets offense has suffered because of it. Whether defenses are more focused, or Jefferson just can't reach last year's level, he hasn't been the same player. It also doesn't help that the Hornets can't shoot worth a damn...

While the Hornets defense appears to be trending back towards normal, the offense has not. Familiarity isn't helping them here and a lot of it has to do with the change of their offensive system. Last year's offense involved off ball screens and pin downs, and this season is more of a dual ball handler system where the dribbling is supposed to create. However, despite the change in system the Hornets continue to feed the ball to Al Jefferson in the post which is in turn taking away lanes for their dribblers. On an offense like this that can't shoot, they need those dribble lanes for spacing and Al Jefferson hasn't been able to provide that."

Mason Plumlee will draw the initial assignment, but going off of the recent stretch of games for Brooklyn, Brook Lopez will see the majority of time at center. Brook missed the first meeting, but Big Al wasn't able to take advantage. Al has the size advantage over Plumlee so look for the Hornets to feed Jefferson in the post early and often. He can also step out to the high post and shoot jumpers, but the team will be best suited with him camping out on the block.

From the Vault

Head on back to March of 2000 and watch one of the best games of Anthony Mason's career.

More reading: At The Hive