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Nets head to Charlotte to face new look Hornets

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Charlotte Hornets v Orlando Magic Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Feeling good, feeling great. Feeling great, feeling good, how are you? If you’re the Brooklyn Nets, you’re feeling fantastic after another national TV showcase victory, this time against the Boston Celtics on Christmas Day.

The opponent tonight will be the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets haven’t been in the playoff chase in quite some time, but they’re hoping this season helps get them closer to respectability again. They lost a close one to the Oklahoma City Thunder last night in Charlotte.

It will be the last road game for the Nets in a while, and we’ll talk more about the schedule in a bit.

Where to follow the game

YES Network on TV. WFAN 101.9 FM on radio. Tip off after 7. After four games on national TV — two preseason games and two regular season — the local guys get their shot.

Injuries

Nicolas Claxton is out for Brooklyn with knee tendinopathy. No word on his return.

Cody Zeller will be out four to six weeks after breaking his hand.

The game

Tonight begins what promises to be a revealing week for the Nets. This is the first night of a back-to-back and three games-in-four-days stretch as they’ll be home for the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday night. Monday also marks the start of a six-game homestand for Steve Nash’s guys. There have been questions of how the Nets will manage minutes and availability for their star players, so we’ll see how they manage this situation.

How long will Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving play? The 7/11 has been off to an amazing start as both guys look like their regular selves as they get further away from their respective injuries. The team has promised to be judicious with their appearances and this particular stretch figures to be a bit tricky. Luckily, both guys haven’t need to play heavy, stressful minutes thus far. The Hornets defense was one of the worst in the league last year and are likely set to be near the bottom of the rankings this season as well. No matter who’s out there and for how long, look for another scoring barrage for Steve Nash’s heavyweights.

Gordon Hayward is the top dog in Charlotte —starting a four-year, $120 million contract, and it’s been a while since he’s been the focus of his team’s offense. Hayward’s Celtics experience wasn’t the best, and this run in Charlotte ought to help him regain his rep as one of the better small forwards in the league. He can create his own shot, is a respectable three point shooter, and a solid passer.

With Zeller out for the next month and change, Bismack Biyombo will be starting at center every night. Biyombo doesn’t provide the offense Zeller does, but the hope is he can provide enough rim protection and rebounding to make the next few weeks manageable. He’ll have his hands full dealing with the combo of DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen on the boards tonight.

Speaking of Allen, he’s due for a big payday this summer and another quality season will do wonders for his bank account. Most importantly, he’ll help deter players like Terry Rozier from making a living at the rim tonight.

Player to watch: Lamelo Ball

If you’re a younger sibling like I am, you know just how important it is to see your older sibling catch hell so that way YOU don’t have to. When big brother Lonzo made his NBA debut, he spent the night getting harassed by Patrick Beverley, thanks in large part to his dad’s incessant chatting.

Since then, Lonzo has grown into a quality player and Lavar has played the background while his boys have achieved their NBA dreams. LaMelo didn’t have the best of NBA debuts in Cleveland against the Cavaliers, but he has tons of potential and showcased some great passing ability in the preseason so I wouldn’t fret too much about it. Last night went much better for the kid, although he only played 15 minutes. Could it be the back-to-back? Maybe. But for a rookie like him, the more he plays, the better.

It pays to have a do-everything sixth man. Caris Levert has been running the second unit and it’s been a nice luxury for the Nets so far. As Irving and Durant, the team still has a top tier perimeter player running the show. Combine that with a shooter like Landry Shamet on the second unit? No wonder the Nets offense has been great so far.

From the Vault

We got some sad news on Christmas as it was announced basketball Hall of Famer K.C. Jones passed away at the age of 88. Let’s take it back to 1989 and K.C.’s speech at his Hall of Fame ceremony

More reading: At the Hive